Having won just twice in its first 11 games, the Princeton Day School boys’ soccer knew it faced an uphill battle last Friday when it hosted a powerful Pennington squad that has just two defeats in its first 13 games.
For the first 33 minutes at Baker Field, PDS held the fort as the teams played to a scoreless stalemate.
But after a disputed corner kick and penalty kick led to Pennington goals, the roof fell in on the Panthers. PDS gave up anther goal in the first half to fall behind 3-0 at intermission and then surrendered four unanswered goals in the first 17:03 of the second half on the way to a 7-0 defeat.
PDS head coach Malcolm Murphy acknowledged that the sequence late in the first half changed the tone of the contest.
“We had some good work in the beginning,” said Murphy, whose team moved to 2-8-2 with the loss.
“That changes the psychology; they took charge in that last seven or eight minutes and we just couldn’t recover from that. You can’t take it away from them, they are good players.”
In Murphy’s view, his players can gain a lot from going against such high level competition as Pennington.
“I was actually proud; the one thing I did like is that we did say that we were going to play soccer throughout the game rather than just whack it up the field,” said Murphy, citing the efforts of sophomore Marco Pinheiro, junior Culver Duquette, and senior Willy Cara.
“We can use this as a great experience because there are not that many teams around like Pennington.”
With the Panthers having lost five straight games since wins over the Solebury School and the Blair Academy, Murphy knows that his team’s resilience is being tested.
“You just have to recognize who can come through it psychologically tight,” said Murphy, whose team hosts the Hill School (Pa.) on October 17.
“I thought this was the best game of possession that four or five of these kids have played because when we have been playing teams below our level, we have dropped to their level. Today we actually came with a game plan and tried to push it through.”
Now, Murphy is hoping his team can make a good push in postseason play as it competes in the state Prep B tourney and the Mercer County Tournament (MCT).
“If we can manage to defend like that and learn how to break out of the back, we have a chance in the Prep Bs,” said Murphy, whose team is seeded 17th in the MCT and will face No. 16 Hun on October 18 in a play-in game with the winner facing top-seeded Allentown in the first round on October 20.
“We are also doing the counties. We are going in so we can give some of the players a better chance.”