September 11, 2019

As Junior Petruso Displays Finishing Touch, PHS Boys’ Soccer Tops Nottingham in Opener

FINISHING TOUCH: Princeton High boys’ soccer player Nick Petruso controls the ball in a preseason training session. Last Thursday, junior striker Petruso scored a goal as PHS topped Nottingham 2-0 in the season opener for both teams. The Tigers, who dropped to 1-1 after falling 7-3 to Gill St. Bernard’s last Saturday, play at Robbinsville on September 12. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Nick Petruso was determined to get the season off on the right foot for the Princeton High boys’ soccer team.

As PHS hosted Nottingham in its season opener last Thursday, junior striker Petruso took off on several runs to the goal in the first half but couldn’t find the back of the net.

“In the beginning it was frustration,” said Petruso. “Towards the end of the first half, we started getting more chemistry going forward.”

With 3:26 left in the first half, Petruso took advantage of that chemistry, breaking through with a goal on a header off a corner kick by Drew Petrone.

“I ended up getting a header off of a corner, I saw the ball coming to my head,” recalled Petruso. “I put my hands up after I hit it, I saw it going right in.”

That goal gave PHS a spark as it lifted its play at both ends of the field, going on to a 2-0 win over Nottingham

“In the second half, I think our defense was doing a lot better,” said Petruso.

“Going forward, we kept the ball more which led to our second goal.”

Coming through in the opener was a lift for a PHS program that is coming off a frustrating 2018 campaign that saw it stumble early on postseason play.

“After last year, we want to do a lot better, starting with a win is great,” said Petruso.

Petruso is looking to do better in terms of his finishing. “I am just trying to get as many goals as possible,” said Petruso, who tallied two goals in a 7-3 loss to Gill St. Bernard’s last Saturday.

“I have been improving my shot from freshman year. I had been skying it but now I am taking that under control.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe believed his team seized control of the contest against Nottingham in the latter stages of the first half

“I thought we grew into the game,” said Sutcliffe. “The guys found a way to have a little more of the ball in the latter 20 minutes of the first half.”

Sutcliffe credited Petruso with finding ways to make things hard on the Nottingham defense.

“Nick was getting in; we hope that he will continue to be dangerous like that,” said Sutcliffe. “It was a great header, it was also good service from Drew Petrone.”

Junior goalie Jared Bell came up big in dealing with some dangerous Northstar forwards.

“Jared had a good game, Nottingham has some guys who are very strong,” said Sutcliffe.

“Jared was tested, he passed the test. Getting a clean sheet, that is what it’s all about for us.”

The pair of senior Noah LaPoint and junior Rafa Davis produced a strong performance on the back line.

“Noah LaPoint had a very good game in the center as did Rafa at right back,” said Sutcliffe.

“With Noah you can just feel his leadership. He was the only senior on the field for us. Rafa has really established himself all preseason.”

Beating Nottingham should help PHS establish itself as a formidable team

“To win the first game of the season and have a good performance, it couldn’t be better,” said Sutcliffe. “I am really happy for the guys. We have put a lot of work in.”

Looking ahead, Sutcliffe wants his team to work better around the goal.

“I think on the attacking end, it is just being able to keep the ball better and build through the middle and combining more,” said Sutcliffe, whose team plays at Robbinsville on September 12. “When we have the ball, it is keep it simple.”

Petruso, for his part, sees building unity as a key to success for the Tigers.

“We need more team bonding and to increase our chemistry,” said Petruso. “It is getting to know each other more.”