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Vol. LXIV, No. 39
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
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MIDDLE MAN: Princeton High boys’ soccer player John Marsh controls the ball in recent action. Senior star Marsh’s work in the midfield has helped PHS get off to a 5-0 start.

With Davis Stepping Up in Sweeper Role, PHS Boys’ Soccer Keeps Rolling Along

Bill Alden

After serving as a back-up last fall when the Princeton High boys’ soccer team won the Group III state title, Ben Davis has been thrust into a leading role this season for the Little Tigers.

With the PHS backline seeing a complete makeover in the wake of the graduation of four senior starters from the squad that went 21-0-4, Davis has stepped up into the vital sweeper position.

While junior Davis was primed for his opportunity to star, he acknowledged that he had some early butterflies.

“I was definitely looking forward to it but I was a little bit nervous in the first couple of games,” said Davis.

“The scrimmages just helped me warm up for making the switch to sweeper from stopper. Sweeper is a position where you have to stay calm and know when to blast it out.”

So far, Davis has been having a blast as PHS has gotten off to a 5-0 start, yielding just one goal in the process.

“We have four whole new backs but a lot of us play together in club and we feel a good connection,” said Davis. “So far it has gone well.”

The new defensive unit, which includes junior Ajami Gikandi and senior Marius Seager together with senior goalie Ruben Morales, is looking to uphold the program’s tradition of stingy defense.

“Every year, Princeton High soccer is pretty strong in the back so I think it shows a lot about us that we are keeping up with some shutouts,” said Davis.

The Little Tigers showed a lot last Thursday when they put the clamps on a talented Hightstown side in posting a 1-0 win to extend its unbeaten streak to 30.

“We knew going into it that it was going to be real tough; we knew some of their players are real good,” said Davis, noting that Hightstown tied PHS last year and won the CVC Valley Division title as the Rams posted an 11-0-2 mark in division play while the Little Tigers went 9-0-4.

“I think it proved a lot for our team, we got the win. The way our system works, our coach makes sure our sweeper doesn’t have a man and everybody else marks up. I think that was working really well today; we took out one of their best forwards.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe likes the way Davis has been handling the sweeper spot.

“The development he has had since we kept him on the team last year as a sophomore is really pleasing,” said Sutcliffe.

“He was on the team and he saw some minutes. We were trying to prepare him for this year and he has been a great player for us all year long. He is stepping into the shoes of someone who had a great year for us last year in Max Reid.”

In nipping Hightstown, PHS got a great offensive moment midway through the second half when Kyle Ehrenworth scored the lone tally of the contest.

“That is his varsity goal so that was good timing on that for him,” said a smiling Sutcliffe.

“It was a double give-and-go between him and Aidan Passanante. Fortunately Kyle got on the right end of the second pass and battled for it and volleyed it in. It was great to see him and Aidan connect like that; he earned that goal.”

Despite his team’s unblemished record, Sutcliffe acknowledged that the Little Tigers need to start scoring more goals.

“There is where I think the team has more room to improve,” said Sutcliffe, referring to his squad’s offense.

“We are fortunate; we are getting one goal a game at least. We are going to get better. In four weeks, I think we are going to be a different team in the front half. We switched the point well today and we got in but we need to get more dangerous in the box like on the goal. We need to do that more often.”

All things considered, though, Sutcliffe is thrilled with his club’s 5-0 start.

“We are not inexperienced but we are young,” said Sutcliffe, whose team hosts Robbinsville on September 30 before playing at Lawrence High on October 2 and at Hamilton on October 5.

“We have only six seniors so there are times when we have only two or three seniors on the field. Having said that we are doing great; I couldn’t be happier.”

Davis, for his part, believes PHS can do some great things this fall. “I think we can do some damage,” asserted Davis. “I definitely feel pressure; everyone is gunning for us. I feel like we can take it.”

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