Last fall, a group of 12 seniors helped the Princeton High boys’ soccer team enjoy a season to remember as the Little Tigers went 18-3-1 on the way to tying Ramapo 1-1 in the NJSIAA Group III state title game.
With all of that firepower having departed, it would appear that PHS is facing a rebuilding job this fall.
But longtime head coach Wayne Sutcliffe is confident that Little Tigers have the talent on hand to maintain the program’s winning tradition.
“Pretty much every guy on the team is a full time soccer player,” said Sutcliffe.
“We have seven sophomores coming off an undefeated freshmen season; they are working hard and improving. You never know until you are in the thick of it but based on our scrimmages so far, we are really encouraged.”
It is encouraging for PHS to have senior star Kevin Halliday back at striker.
“Kevin scored two goals against North Brunswick in a scrimmage the other day and they were both beautiful goals,” asserted Sutcliffe.
“We are a different team when he is on the field. He had 23 goals last year and 10 of them were game winners. He is a very savvy player. He is playing attacking center midfield.”
The Little Tigers feature two other attacking threats in junior Chase Ealy and senior Mike Papakonstantinos.
“Chase and Mike will also be up front,” added Sutcliffe, whose team opens the season at Allentown on September 6 in a rematch of last year’s Group III Central Jersey sectional final won 4-3 by the Little Tigers.
“Chase is looking fantastic, he is continuing to refine his game. Getting all of the experience last year in the sectional and state final as a sophomore was great for him. He is a junior but experience-wise he is like a senior. Mike has given us a nice spark, he can be an attacking player in the box.”
Senior John Blair should give PHS a spark in the midfield. “John has had a good preseason camp,” said Sutcliffe.
“With all of his experience on our run last year, he is ahead of the curve. He needs to keep working hard and he can do some big things. Zeno Mazzaocato, Cole Snyder, Nick Halliday, and Renaud Miahle will also be in the midfield. They are all talented.”
The defense will be a work in progress, as the Little Tigers is replacing four key seniors from last year in Pablo Arroyo, Scott Bechler, Juan Polanco, and Adam Klein. Sutcliffe has three seniors, Andrew Braverman, Dalton Sekelsky, and Alex Torske working on the backline along with three sophomores, Chris Harla, Dwight Donis, and Edgar Morales.
“We have a lot of size there; they are finding their way to the same page,” said Sutcliffe.
“They need to get their communication going and work well with Laurenz. [goalie Laurenz Reimitz]”
PHS needs junior Reimitz to provide some good work at keeper. “Laurenz is having a good preseason,” said Sutcliffe.
“He had a shutout in our scrimmage with North Brunswick; that was his first clean sheet of the preseason so that was encouraging. Having all that experience last year really helped him as well. We are hoping that by midseason, he will be in great form.”
Sutcliffe believes that his team can find winning form collectively as the fall unfolds.
“The season goes in phases; we are confident going in,” said Sutcliffe. “We have a lot of work to do. The team has the potential to achieve whatever it wants to achieve in the CVC and beyond. We have to make small strides in training everyday and work on the little things.”