November 4, 2020

With Sophomore Wegmann Starring Off the Bench, PHS Boys’ Soccer Primed for Big Postseason Run

SUPER SUB: Princeton High boys’ soccer player Richard Wegmann brings the ball upfield in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore forward Wegmann came off the bench and scored two goals to help PHS defeat Hightstown 3-0. The Tigers, now 5-1-1, play at Lawrence High on November 4 before hosting Trenton Central on November 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Richard Wegmann may not be a starter for the Princeton High boys’ soccer team but he is emerging as a game-changing performer for the squad.

Last Saturday against visiting Hightstown, sophomore forward Wegmann came off the bench to tally a pair of first half goals as PHS went on to a 3-0 win over the Rams, improving to 5-1-1.

In reflecting on his reserve role, Wegmann enjoys bringing a change of pace for the Tigers.

“I am rested and I am ready,” said Wegmann. “I can come on and it is a bit of a surprise because I play a little differently than our other strikers. It is the dynamic of having two choices which is good for us. The coaches are telling me what I can do. If we are making some mistakes, they will point them out to me and I can try to make it better.”

Against Hightstown, Wegmann came on with 25:42 left in the first half and converted a feed from senior Ian Pompliano five minutes later for his first goal. With 13:13 left before halftime, Wegmann knocked in another one, keeping his focus in the middle of a traffic jam around the box.

“It was a great effort by Ian and I was lucky to be in the right spot,” said Wegmann, recalling his first tally.

“For the second goal, everyone was kind of confused. It was a high ball. I had time, waited for it to come down and put it in.”

Having gotten some playing time last fall as a freshman, Wegmann feels more comfortable on the pitch in his second varsity campaign.

“I have a lot more confidence this year,” said Wegmann. “Last year, I was kind of getting minutes and trying to not mess up. This year, I feel like I know the guys. They are great guys. They have some confidence in me and I have more confidence in myself.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe has confidence in Wegmann’s ability to spark the Tigers off the bench.

“Richard has some assets to his game in terms of his pace,” said Sutcliffe.

“When it is 15, 25, or 30 minutes in, sometimes guys get winded. He is a guy who can come in and really make it hard on defenders. It is a huge asset.”

Sutcliffe likes the way his squad has come on after a stretch which saw the Tigers lose 3-2 to Robbinsville on October 10 and tie Allentown 3-3 on October 21 with a COVID pause in between.

“I couldn’t be happier with the team, the collective team work and the energy,” said Sutcliffe, whose team has now posted three straight victories.

“Everybody is working for one another. When you get to the business part of the season, that is what it is all about.”

Pompliano worked hard for his teammates, picking up two assists in the win with senior Youri Laoui tacking on the third PHS goal midway through the second half.

“Ian has that ability to be calm on the ball and hit that final pass for a goal,” said Sutcliffe. “Youri had a beautiful goal. He worked hard and he hit it well.”

The Tiger defensive unit played well against Hightstown, picking up its third straight shutout.

“The back four have been great, we made some emphasis on some things,” said Sutcliffe.

“Breno [Azevedo], Ethan [Parker], Alex [Milley] and Nico [Carusone] have been really, really nice and stable. If you can have your back four be really in sync, it helps. Jared [Bell] has played well in goal, I couldn’t be happier with his performance. It has been great.”

With PHS playing at Lawrence High on November 4 and hosting Trenton Central on November 6 before getting into state sectional action, Sutcliffe believes his squad is poised to do some great things.

“The cutoff for the NJSIAA tournament is Monday; today was like a tournament game and that is the way every game is going to be like from now on,” said Sutcliffe.

“It is a tournament mentality so there is that level of urgency, especially for the seniors. We are 5-1-1 and we are in the business end of the season so now is the time to be going in that direction. We had a couple of weeks there where we were playing so well. We had some moments and then we had a layoff. It was a good time to reflect. We could watch a lot of film, we could train and address some things. It was a good time to have that little break.”

In Wegmann’s view, PHS is headed in the right direction. “We hit our flow again after a tough two games for us,” said Wegmann.

“We are feeling great. We have 15 seniors this year so it is a big year for us. I hope we do well.”