Kevin Halliday’s propensity for dazzling runs to goal made him one of the deadliest scorers in recent years for the Princeton High boys’ soccer team.
Halliday’s finishing ability caught the eye of college coaches and he will be playing for the Tufts University men’s soccer team this fall, once again joining forces with his older brother Zach, who is a member of the Jumbos’ squad.
The skills that Halliday displays in the fall have proven transferable to the spring as the talented senior is also a top gun for the PHS boys’ lax team.
Last week against visiting Robbinsville, Halliday was a force, tallying three goals and an assist as the Little Tigers pulled away to a 12-5 victory over the Ravens.
Halliday took off on several trademark end-to-end jaunts over the course of the game and provided one of the highlights of the day with a brilliant solo effort in the third quarter, racing past and through the Raven defense to make it 8-4.
“I try to implement athletic knowledge in general,” said Halliday, reflecting on the highlight reel tally.
“Whenever I see a break, hopefully I can open a guy up and give a pass. That time I saw the lane and I thought I would take it. Whenever you are running in front of a guy with his back turned to the goal it is kind of easy.”
Things hadn’t come easy for PHS over the previous week as it lost 17-4 to Lawrenceville on April 14 and 14-2 to Summit on April 19.
“It was definitely important to bounce back after two losses in a week, albeit to good teams,” said Halliday.
“We wanted to take what we learned in the past week and really put it to use today.”
While the Little Tigers sputtered in the first half against Robbinsville, the team got rolling in the second half.
“In the first half, we struggled but I think in the second half we gave it a pretty good effort,” said Halliday.
“It was much sharper, especially in the clearing and the ground balls. In the first half, we couldn’t clear it and we kept giving them second chances by turning the ball over.”
Halliday and freshman Johnny Lopez-Ona looked sharp as they connected on several goals.
“I love little Johnny; he is a great guy,” said Halliday of the precocious Lopez-Ona, who tallied four goals and an assist in the victory over Robbinsville.
“He has been doing really well this year. I think he is a good finisher and he is really impressive being a freshman. I think it is good that we are getting him touches and building up his confidence because that is important as a freshman. He is a great hustler; he knows the game. I am really excited for this program with him coming up the next four years.”
As Halliday plays his last season for the PHS program, he is savoring his final weeks in the game.
“This is it for me in lacrosse,” said Halliday, who exploded for seven goals and two assists last Friday as PHS topped Christian Brothers Academy 14-5 to improve to 9-2.
“I had fantasies of maybe trying out for the team at Tufts. I thought that would be fun but I think it is time that I focus on soccer. I have to choose one by the time I am in college. I will still love lacrosse. I will still play it when I am back here.”
PHS head coach Peter Stanton loves the way Halliday plays lacrosse.
“Kevin is fantastic,” asserted Stanton. “He has the things that you can’t coach — the quickness, the change of direction, creativity, and vision. He is just a special athlete.”
Junior goalie Kenan Glasgold displayed some athleticism and vision as he made nine saves in the Robbinsville contest.
“Kenan had a couple of clutch saves at clutch moments,” said Stanton. “He had a couple on the doorstep. He saw the ball a lot better today, he was relaxed. What tends to happen when we are playing those tough games is that the goalie is a little bit tight, a little bit tense. They start guessing and saves that they might have been able to make, they take themselves out of it. Today being relaxed, he was able to make saves.”
The one-two punch of juniors Colin Buckley and Jackson Andres adds toughness to the PHS defense.
“Our defense is built around Colin and Jackson controlling the middle of the field,” said Stanton. “If we are able to limit shots to the perimeter, we feel like that is going to give us a chance.”
In Stanton’s view, getting the chance to play perennial powers like Lawrenceville and Summit helps PHS build resilience.
“That’s why we play them, you get exposed, your weaknesses get found out,” added Stanton, whose team wraps up regular season play by hosting Hopewell Valley on May 1. “You also get to see who can play well under pressure. The films that we get from those games are very valuable.”
The pressure is on for PHS as it heads into the postseason this week, starting with the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament on May 3.
“We are on short time,” said Stanton, who guided PHS to the 2013 MCT crown.
“We have Christian Brothers on Friday and that is another one of these big games. We hope to see the progress in that game. After that, it is two games and if we win, then we are CVC champs and then its the county tournament and the state tournament so it is the time to do it.”
Halliday, for his part, believes that the recent losses to high-powered foes can pay dividends for the Little Tigers over the next few weeks.
“Just about any team we see in the county or state tournaments, we can say hey we played guys better than this team and we don’t have to shudder,” said Halliday.
“We can go straight at them and give it our all. I think playing good teams like Summit and Lawrenceville will give us the ability to have the poise and confidence in the postseason.”