August 28, 2019

Coming Off Lackluster Postseason Run, PHS Boys’ Soccer Eager for Fresh Start

STRIKING BACK: Princeton High boys’ soccer player Nick Petruso goes after the ball in a game last year. Junior striker Petruso figures to be a go-to scorer this fall for PHS. The Tigers open their 2019 campaign by hosting Nottingham on September 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Although the Princeton High boys’ soccer team posted another winning season last year as it went 8-6-3, the proud program was frustrated by its lack of postseason success.

After having won the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional title on the way to the final of state Group 4 tourney and making the Mercer County Tournament semifinals in 2017, the Tigers didn’t mount a deep playoff run last year, losing in the first round of the states and getting eliminated in the county quarterfinals.

Longtime PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe is happy to turn the page on 2018.

“It is a fresh start,” said Sutcliffe, who is entering his 23rd season at the helm of the program.

“We are a year away from what happened last year. It was a rather uncharacteristic season. We have done a lot of work over the summer and in the weight room.”

Sutcliffe will be looking for a pair of junior forwards, Nick Petruso and Ian Pompliano, to make things happen around the goal.

“We are going to play with one striker; Nick Petruso is the preferred striker right now,” said Sutcliffe.

“Ian plays in behind him. It is a work in progress. As their understanding gets better, we will be better.”

In the midfield, PHS is depending on junior Rakuyo Tamada, a transfer from Japan, sophomore Miles Ryan, junior Brenno Azevedo, and sophomore Nico Carusone to lead the way.

“Rakuyo is a player who has the quality to separate himself,” said Sutcliffe, noting that a trio of sophomores, Owen Deming, Pranav Guhathakurta, and Drew Petrone, will also see time in the midfield.

“Miles is doing great; he got time last year. We were grooming him, he will play a big role. Brenno and Nico are playing wide for us, they are very good players.”

Across the back line, the Tigers will feature junior twins Ethan Parker and Dylan Parker, junior Rafa Davis, and sophomore James Novak.

“Ethan and Dylan are good athletes,” said Sutcliffe of the pair who starred at doubles last spring for the PHS boys’ tennis team.

“Rafa is from Brazil; he is a good player, he is a little flashy. James has been playing out wide on the left, he will play outside left back and outside left mid.”

At goalie, PHS boasts two returners in juniors Spencer Katz and Jared Bell.

“We have Spencer and Jared back, they have both had great preseasons,” said Sutcliffe, who has a third goalkeeper in sophomore Josh Snyder. “We are undecided on the starter at this point, they are working it out.”

In order for the Tigers to have a very good season, they need to work together as a unit.

“It is trying to expedite the challenges of becoming a team, both on and off the field,” said Sutcliffe, whose team opens the 2019 campaign by hosting Nottingham on September 5.

“It is a group of eight sophomores and eight juniors; there are not a lot of seniors. It is also finding a way to keep clean sheets, which has always been a staple for us.”