KICKING IN: Princeton High boys’ soccer star Zach Halliday kicks the ball in a game earlier this season. Senior midfielder and co-captain Halliday came up big in wins over Ewing and WW/P-S last week, tallying a total of two goals and three assists as the Little Tigers posted a pair of 6-0 victories in the contests to extend their winning streak to eight. PHS, now 9-2, plays at WW/P-N on October 11 before hosting Notre Dame on October 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
After rolling to a 6-0 win over visiting Ewing last week, a bunch of the players on the Princeton High boys’ soccer team made a beeline for a pile of homemade Rice Krispie snacks near its bench.
But before they could devour the treats, PHS senior star and co-captain Zach Halliday called them off, telling his teammates to do their post-game warm down jog before satisfying their appetites.
For Halliday, keeping his teammates focused on task is one of the hallmarks of his leadership style.
“Something I try to do as a leader is to be vocal; I try to make sure the team is always taking things seriously,” said Halliday, who served as a captain of the PHS boys’ lacrosse team last spring.
“I am always giving 100 percent effort and also just leading by example when I am out there trying to make the best of a play. I am not saying things to other people that I am not doing myself. I am trying to make them see how it is done and hopefully the younger kids look at me and see the work ethic and things like that.”
In the victory over Ewing, Halliday certainly set a shining example on the field, scoring a goal and picking up two assists.
“I like to see myself as a playmaker but it is really just doing what the team needs,” said Halliday.
“Whether it is scoring goals, whether it is having assists, whether it is playing defense, I am trying to help the team out and fill in where I am needed.”
For Halliday, scoring the goal against Ewing represented a breakthrough.
“That was my first goal of the year; I have been in some different positions this year and different situations,” said Halliday.
“Today was my first day playing my old position, attacking center mid. I played there freshman, sophomore, and junior year. It was my 1st game back and I got my first goal. It may have been the fifth goal of the game but it was still exciting for me. I was trying to get everyone to celebrate with me. I was like come on guys and they were like was that really your first goal.”
Halliday is excited with how PHS is playing lately as it has reeled off eight straight wins since a 1-2 start.
“We got off to a pretty rough start but we weren’t concerned at all,” said Halliday, who chipped in a goal and an assist as PHS topped WW/P-S 6-0 last Thursday to improve to 9-2.
“We knew our best soccer was ahead of us. Back then, it was just developing the cohesiveness and chemistry and working out the kinks here or there. We are heading in the right direction.”
The connection between Halliday and younger brother, Kevin, a junior star for the Little Tigers, has helped the squad’s chemistry.
“Kevin is a real talented player and it is always a treat to get to play with him in any sport. we play together in lacrosse too,” said Halliday.
“I think this year he has shouldered the goal scoring load. Today he scored his 10th goal of the season. I think he is the first double digit goals scorer on our team since Andrei Spirin in our state championship year (2009). Kevin is bringing a new name back to Princeton High soccer and he has been clinical with his finishing. He has been playing like a senior even though he is only a junior; I am proud of him and everything he has been able to accomplish.”
Halliday and classmate Aidan Passannante have accomplished a lot since they started playing together in junior high.
“Aidan and I have been playing together since we were on the Cranbury Middle School team together,” said Halliday.
“We went undefeated our eighth grade year and that was awesome and then we came to Princeton our freshman year and the success has continued. I know Aidan as a player and a person; he is one of my best friends and is one of the most talented players I have ever played with or had to chance to play with. He is a great guy to lean on; he is a great guy to have making plays in big games. I think the chemistry is there and the trust is there.”
PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe was thrilled to have senior star Halliday making plays against Ewing.
“Zach had a good game today; it was great to see him get on the score sheet,” said Sutcliffe.
“We were without him for about week and a half because he nicked his knee. He is back and he has reestablished his fitness, form and presence. You can’t really replace him in terms of leadership.”
In Sutcliffe’s view, the team’s performance in the victory over Ewing was a reflection of the sharp form it has been displaying over the last few weeks.
“I thought it was a good result obviously; there was some quality, especially in the second half,” said Sutcliffe.
“It is always good to get a game where you can see some good finishing and give the entire team some minutes too. I think it is just fine-tuning and hard work and knowing you are not at your best early on.”
In Sutcliffe’s view, Kevin Halliday has emerged as one of PHS’s best players
“I think Kevin has either scored or assisted in every game; he is our leading scorer,” asserted Sutcliffe.
“He has 10 goals; he is a real threat around the goal. He works hard; he has been thinking the game and he has been finding the right spots at the right time and and you have to credit him for that.”
The trio of senior Pablo Arroyo, senior Jeremy Goldsmith, and junior John Blair have been giving the Little Tigers the right stuff during the winning streak.
“Pablo Arroyo has been a really great presence; a great leader for us,” added Sutcliffe.
“I would say of late, Jeremy Goldsmith and John Blair have established themselves. I think they have earned everything they have gotten. Hopefully over the next few weeks, they are going to get even better.”
PHS is aiming to remain sizzling as it starts play in the Mercer County Tournament (MCT) on October 20 as it shoots for its fifth county crown in the last six years.
“We are looking forward to it,” said Sutcliffe, whose team plays at WW/P-N on October 11 before hosting Notre Dame on October 16.
“It has been our goal since last spring to work toward being at our best in the opening round of the counties. There is no doubt we are on the track with the mentality of the group.”
Halliday, for his part, believes the Little Tigers are on track for another big MCT run.
“The county tournament is always a magical time,” said Halliday. “It is something that really excites us.”