(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)
SEEING RED: Princeton Day School defender Asante Brooks, right, and teammate John Maher dispossess a Lawrenceville player of the ball last Wednesday in PDS' 2-0 loss to the Big Red. The Panthers, now 3-1-1, play at Peddie on September 21, host Rutgers Prep on September 24, and then play Nottingham on September 26 at Mercer County Park.end of caption
Utilizing Battling Spirit, Hard Work PDS Boys' Soccer Making Strides
By Bill Alden
Malcolm Murphy knew that his Princeton Day School boys' soccer team was a bit overmatched last Wednesday when it hosted powerful Lawrenceville.
"We know we aren't as technically good as them so we have to find tactics to help keep us in the game," said Murphy, who is in his fourth year as the head coach of the Panther program. "I understand that we're going to be under the gun a little bit and we have to work with that."
Helped by a first half downpour, PDS put the damper on the Lawrenceville attack in the early stages of the contest as goalkeeper Logan Laughlin made several big saves. The Big Red broke through, scoring a goal with 19:13 left in the half.
Putting an extra man up front after intermission, the Panthers attack put Lawrenceville on its heels in the second half. Controlling possession for much of the second 40 minutes, PDS created several good chances.
But a Panther defensive lapse on a free kick allowed the Big Red to score a goal against the run of play with 8:39 remaining. Lawrenceville ended up escaping the soggy PDS pitch with a 2-0 win.
Murphy saw the game as a valuable learning experience notwithstanding the final score. "I'm well pleased that our players realize that Lawrenceville is a team they want to achieve success against and that they want to be at that level," said Murphy in the accent of his native Manchester, England.
"We're always battling and I like this opportunity for our kids. I thought we did pretty well today. Even though they got a lot of the ball, we kept their shots down. I don't think they had that many great opportunities."
Murphy believes that his club's senior leadership will give his team the opportunity to have some success over the rest of the fall.
"We've actually got seniors now that play at good club levels," explained Murphy, whose team moved to 3-1-1 after battling Timothy Christian to a 3-3 tie in double overtime last Monday.
"Players like Asante Brooks, Patrick Briody, Jon Siani, and Derek Mayer, they're basically holding us together. They are excellent players and they give us great stability across the back."
Murphy recognizes that the veteran players have to carry a heavier share of the load as he works younger players into the lineup.
"We have some inexperienced players that don't play year-round," acknowledged Murphy.
"The desire, spirit, and discipline are new to them. Sometimes you think you have everything hanging in there tactically and somebody runs out because he doesn't understand balance and shape."
If PDS can keep its shape, it should do just fine when it is playing teams at its level. "I think that they're doing well," said Murphy, whose club plays at Peddie on September 21, hosts Rutgers Prep on September 24, and then plays Nottingham on September 26 at Mercer County Park.
"We have things pretty much in line for where we are heading. We have to recognize that if we put in the hard work, we should look forward to a good season at the Prep B level."
The spirit that PDS displayed in battling the elite Lawrenceville side should pay dividends as the season unfolds.