Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 38
 
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
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BURN NOTICE: Princeton University men’s soccer midfielder Josh Walburn heads up the field in recent action. Last Friday, junior Walburn scored to help Princeton edge Fairleigh Dickinson University 2-1 in overtime. Walburn now has a team-high five goals for the 4-1 Tigers after scoring a total of five goals in his first two seasons combined.

Sparked by Walburn’s Penchant for Clutch Goals, 4-1 PU Men’s Soccer Showing Winning Mentality

Ed Benkin

In winning its first three games this season, the Princeton University men’s soccer team had displayed a knack for taking advantage of opportunity.

The Tigers, however, took their opportunistic mentality to a new level as they hosted Fairleigh Dickinson University last Friday night in the Princeton Invitational.

Princeton took a 1-0 lead in the second half only to blow it when the Knights, a man down due to a red card, scored a goal with 24.7 seconds left in regulation.

In the overtime, the Tigers squandered some scoring opportunities and the game appeared to be heading to a 1-1 tie.

Then lightning struck with 0.8 seconds left as Princeton sophomore star Antoine Hoppenot got pulled down in the box and drew a penalty kick.

Senior Teddy Schneider took the ball and cooly nailed the kick into the back of the net to give the Tigers an improbable 2-1 triumph and trigger a mob scene celebration in front of the Princeton bench.

In the aftermath of the stunning win, Tiger junior midfielder Josh Walburn acknowledged that Princeton had won ugly.

“It was a tough game; it wasn’t our best game of the year,” said Walburn, who scored the Tigers’ first goal of the evening.

“We gave up a bad goal at the end there but we stuck with it and got the win. It wasn’t pretty but it counts.”

While Princeton’s performance Friday wasn’t an example of the beautiful game, the team’s character was eye-catching.

“It shows that we are very strong together and we can come back from anything,” maintained Walburn.

“It doesn’t matter what we are facing; we are very confident with the team we have. We know we have a chance to win every game we are in.”

Walburn took advantage of a scoring chance when he buried a header in the first minute of the second half to put the Tigers in the lead.

“Mark Linnville just threw it and I saw the keeper kind of come off his line,” recalled Walburn.

“I knew if I could get to it, he was off and I could get it over him. It worked out; you never know in those kind of scrums if you are going to be able to get to it.”

Walburn has been getting it around the net this year, notching a team-high five goals so far after scoring a total of five goals in his first two seasons combined with the Tigers.

“I have just have been in the box more; I have been able to get on the end of crosses,” explained the 6’2, 185-pound Walburn, a native of St. Louis, Mo.

“Last year, I played midfield but I was more defensive. I am up there more this year and I can get my head on stuff.”

Princeton head coach Jim Barlow acknowledged that his players didn’t seem to have their heads in the game for much of the evening against FDU.

“I didn’t think that we played very well tonight, especially after we went up a man,” said Barlow.

“We were too content to sit on the one-goal lead. There were not enough guys demanding the ball. We could have really got some possession going and gone after the second goal. We kind of let them hang around and they started playing balls forward.”

Still, the manner in which the Tigers won over FDU represented a step forward for a club that has almost matched last season’s win total of five.

“At the same time, it was good for our guys to bounce back from such a heartbreaking goal and find a way to win the game,” said Barlow, whose team did taste defeat for the first time this season when it fell 1-0 to No. 19 and undefeated Monmouth last Sunday in the final game of the weekend event to drop to 4-1 on the season.

Barlow certainly likes the heart Walburn is showing around the net. “It wasn’t a great game for Josh today; he had a good goal again but I thought we weren’t quite as dangerous on the flanks,” said Barlow.

“He is stepping up and getting big goals for us. To his credit, that’s what we need.”

Schneider certainly stepped up and gave Princeton what it needed on his last-second penalty kick.

“Teddy just grabbed the ball and said ‘I’ll put it in’ and that’s what you want,” said a smiling Barlow.

“You want someone who knows that he is going to score. It’s not anything other than a lot of confidence and picking your spot and making sure you hit it.”

In Barlow’s view, this year’s squad has a better idea of when to pick its spots in crunch time.

“Last year we had some games where we played really well and we didn’t win,” said Barlow, whose team heads west this weekend to play at Cal-Irvine on September 25 and at San Diego State on September 27.

“We know in college soccer that you just have to grind it out sometimes; it’s not going to look pretty. You have to defend, you have got to do well on restarts. You have to capitalize on your opportunities and you’ve got to keep fighting.”

Walburn, for his part, believes that this year’s Tigers are more ready for that grind than in past seasons.

“Everyone came in fitter than in any year I have been here,” said Walburn. “The fact that everyone came in so fit really gave us a good starting spot for the year. We are more mature as a team. Last year we had a lot of young guys playing and I think everyone has stepped it up this year and raised it to another level.”

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