October 2, 2019

With Martin Saving His Best for Last, PU Men’s Soccer Grinding Out Wins

BIG BEN: Princeton University men’s soccer player Ben Martin, left, goes after the ball in a 2018 game. Last week, senior midfielder Martin scored a goal to help Princeton defeat Drexel 3-1. The Tigers, who improved to 4-2 with the victory, were slated to play at St. Joseph’s on October 1 before starting their Ivy League campaign with a game at Dartmouth on October 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

It appears that Ben Martin is saving his best for last as he goes through his senior season for the Princeton University men’s soccer team.

The midfielder tallied a goal and an assist to help Princeton defeat Fairleigh Dickinson University 4-0 on September 21.

Three days later as Princeton hosted Drexel, Martin struck again, taking a feed from Kevin O’Toole and heading the ball into the back of the net to put the Tigers up 1-0.

“Whenever you see Kevin with the ball, you have to start running,” said Martin, a 6’2, 184-pound native of Irvine, Calf. “Kevin can put it on a dime.”

With sophomore Ryan Clare and freshman Spencer Fleurant putting in goals, Princeton went on to a 3-1 win over the Dragons as it improved to 4-2.

“It was a team win because we did not play our best,” said Martin. “We played well enough to win.”

With the victory over Drexel extending Princeton’s winning streak to three, Martin believes that the team is getting in sync.

“I think coach [Jim] Barlow has done a really good job with the formation and really finding a formation that has suited all of our players,” said Martin.

“In the beginning of the season, we were struggling because we were finding ourselves. Now I think we have found ourselves a little more and that is credit to his tactics and us as a team coming together.”

The Tigers will look to keep putting things together this week as they were slated to play at St. Joseph’s on October 1 before starting their Ivy League campaign with a game at Dartmouth on October 5.

“We have a week off, so this week will be a big week for us in terms of finding ourselves even more,” said Martin. “Hopefully we can put in a better performance at St. Joe’s.”

Marin is determined to perform well in his final college campaign. “My role has evolved quite a bit, I have played a lot of positions; now I am a center mid that goes both ways,” said Martin, who has two goals and an assist on the season for five points, third best on the squad.

“Now I think I need to take more of a leadership role. That is something I have been a little passive towards in previous years. I have a month and a half left here.”

Princeton head coach Barlow likes the way Martin has been stepping up this fall.

“Ben is so important for us, he can do everything,” said Barlow. “He can play any position. He covers ground, he is athletic, he is good with the ball, he can score, he can defend. He has different roles from game to game. He has a played a few different spots this year already.”

In reflecting on the win over the Dragons, Barlow acknowledged that his squad didn’t play as well as he had hoped.

“It wasn’t a great day for us; credit Drexel, I think they made it hard for us,” said Barlow.

“We had a decent stretch at the end of the first half and at the start of the season half. We weren’t as sharp or as tuned in defensively as were at FDU. We were opportunistic around the goal today. Finishing our chances when we don’t have a great day is huge and it helped get us a result.”

Barlow enjoyed seeing Clare and Fleurant notch their first career goals.

“It is important that we can score in a lot of different ways and have a lot of different guys contributing,” said Barlow.

“That part was one of the positives. It is the sign of a good team, finding a way to win when you are not at your best. In previous years, playing like we did tonight, we would not have gotten a result so give the guys a lot of credit for finding a way.”

With Princeton starting the defense of its Ivy crown this weekend, Barlow will be looking for his guys to raise their game.

“We are still trying to get healthy, we are still trying to figure things out,” said Barlow.

“We haven’t been able to have training sessions that are really good because every day is either the day before a game or the day after a game. It is hard to push it, but now we can push it for a week and see if we can make some progress. I hope we will be ready. We have to take a few more steps, that is for sure.”

In Martin’s view, the win over Drexel shows that the Tigers have the grit to make another title push.

“We saw that our team, even though it was not a pretty win today, can grind out wins,” said Martin.

“That is what you need because every Ivy game is not going to go the way you want. This team can grind out wins, we have a lot of heart. That is pretty necessary to win an Ivy title.”