October 9, 2019

With Pompliano Providing Spark Off the Bench, PHS Boys’ Soccer Rallies to Top Hightstown in OT

COMING TOGETHER: Members of the Princeton High boys’ soccer team celebrate after scoring a goal in a recent game. Last Thursday against visiting Hightstown, junior Ian Pompliano tallied two goals as PHS rallied from a 1-0 halftime deficit to win 2-1 in overtime. The Tigers, who lost 1-0 in overtime at Hopewell Valley last Monday to drop to 10-3, are scheduled to host Lawrence on October 10 before playing at Notre Dame on October 14. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Ian Pompliano isn’t always in the starting lineup for the Princeton High boys’ soccer team but he is developing into one of the squad’s top finishers.

Last Thursday against visiting Hightstown, the junior forward came off the bench and scored two goals as PHS rallied from a 1-0 halftime deficit to pull out a 2-1 win in overtime and improve to 10-2.

Heading into the second half, Pompliano and his teammates knew they had to be more aggressive around the net to overcome the Rams.

“We just tried to send a few more numbers forward, considering that we were down,” said Pompliano. “Once we made the switch, we were just dominating.”

With 14:20 left in regulation, Pompliano helped switch the momentum in favor of PHS as he slotted a ball into the back of the net to knot the contest at 1-1.

“Charlie Novak headed the ball to me and I got the ball and played it off one of their midfielders,” said Pompliano, recalling the tally.

“I played the ball out wide to James Novak and he crossed the ball and it bobbled around a little bit; I turned on it and got it in.”

Over the waning stages of the second half, PHS turned up the heat on the Rams, generating a number of chances with Hightstown on its heels as the contest went into overtime.

“Once we got the goal, we just kept the ball and kept going forward,” said Pompliano. “We got some fire after that; we felt pretty confident going into overtime.”

Early in the second OT period, Pompliano fired the ball home from close range to give PHS the win.

“The ball just kind of came to me, I was in the right spot,” said Pompliano. “I took a shot and it worked out.”

Pompliano was proud of the way PHS worked to pull out the victory.

“It feels good,” said Pompliano. “It shows we are resilient and we can make comebacks in the second half when we need to.”

Reflecting on how his role is evolving this season, Pompliano believes he is forming a good one-two scoring punch with classmate Nick Petruso.

“Nick is a great player to have; he is so fast and he opens up defenses,” said Pompliano.

“When I am on the ball, it is the easiest thing finding him off the ball. He is constantly making runs. I have been a pretty key attacking player. Nick and I have combined for a lot of goals this season.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe was looking for his team to attack more against Hightstown as it looked to overcome the halftime deficit.

“We were trying to increase our urgency in the second half and connect more passes,” said Sutcliffe.

“In the first half, we were getting in but we weren’t building. That was our goal in the second half. We settled down so I am very pleased.”

Sutcliffe was pleased to see Pompliano come through in the win over the Rams.

“Ian has been coming in off the bench in the 20-25th minute,” said Sutcliffe.

“Getting that winning goal was great for Ian. It was great for his contribution and great for his confidence. He gave us a lift today. Their No. 20 shirt was just shadowing Nick and he was drawing defenders. So that was part of our rationale to insert Ian because he can open up the game a little bit. Nick can draw guys out and that frees up Ian and frees up Nico [Carusone].”

With the Mercer County Tournament starting next week, Sutcliffe feels that his squad is raising the level of its game at the right time.   

“We are growing. Our best soccer is ahead of us,” said Sutcliffe, whose team  lost 1-0 in overtime at Hopewell Valley last Monday to drop to 10-3 and is scheduled to host Lawrence on October 10 before playing at Notre Dame on October 14.

“The guys on the team are 100 percent committed. They are believing. These young guys are doing great. We have seven sophomores and every one of them is making a contribution. We also have a great junior class.”

In Pompliano’s view, PHS is playing good soccer all over the field as it heads into postseason play.

“Going forward, I think we have a strong offense,” said Pompliano. “We have a solid midfield and back line to support that. I think we have only let up two goals at home.”