With McSherry Coming Up Big Despite Sore Ankle, Tiger Men’s Soccer Edges Harvard, Stays in Ivy Race
After starting the first 12 games of the season, Brendan McSherry found himself on the bench for the Princeton University men’s soccer team as it hosted Harvard last Saturday evening.
With the junior star midfielder and former Peddie School standout bothered by a nagging ankle injury, the Princeton coaches weren’t sure how much he could help the Tigers in the vital Ivy League clash.
But at the 17-minute mark, McSherry entered the fray and immediately made his presence felt in the midfield. Late in the half, McSherry looked perfectly healthy as he lofted a free kick into the top corner to give Princeton a 1-0 lead.
“The goalie was off on the back post and they didn’t have too many guys on the wall,” said McSherry, recalling his tally.
“I thought I could dip it over the wall and beat the keeper and that worked out.”
Princeton had to put in some extra work as it went down one man minutes later when junior star Thomas Sanner was sent off on a red card. Undeterred, the Tigers took a 2-0 lead late in the first half on a penalty kick by Cameron Porter. Early in the second half, senior star Porter struck again as he scored to make it 3-0. From there, Princeton hung on for dear life as Harvard scored two unanswered goals.
In the end, McSherry left the field with his hands raised in triumph as the Tigers pulled out a 3-2 thriller, improving to 7-3-3 overall and 2-1-1 Ivy League.
“It was a classic Ivy League game, two teams battling it out,” said McSherry, who was credited with an assist on Porter’s second goal.
“It was really intense with the nerves and everything. It was not as sharp as we would all hope but it was just a great effort all around.”
Princeton produced a superb effort offensively, generating offense despite being shorthanded.
“You think that we would be defending for our lives,” said McSherry. “We managed to score two more goals a man down, which is really impressive. It shows a lot of character out of our attack and out of our guys.
The Tigers showed character in holding off a Crimson team that came into the game riding an 8-0-1 unbeaten streak with a 2-0-1 record in Ivy play.
“We get that third goal and at that point we just have to defend,” said McSherry.
“It was a little nerve-wracking. I am really proud of the guys that we pulled that one out.”
The win extended an unbeaten streak for Princeton, who is 4-0-1 in its last five outings.
“We are playing well, we are moving the ball around,” asserted McSherry.
“We are confident and that’s a big key, being confident going into these games.”
McSherry, for his part, has gained a lot of confidence with two seasons at Princeton under his belt.
“I think college soccer as a whole is an adjustment, the more you play, you just get used to it,” said the 5’9, 160-pound McSherry, a Freehold native who now has two goals and three assists this season. “It is more physical, it is faster. I think I am slowly adjusting.”
In assessing his role on the Tigers, McSherry looks to bring speed and skill to the midfield.
“I think they have thrown me in there to generate some chances and set other guys up,” said McSherry.
“I am not the most natural goal scorer but I am good at setting other guys up and they just want me to be hard to play against in the midfield, defensively as well.”
Princeton head coach Jim Barlow acknowledged that losing Sanner made things hard for his squad.
“The thing that is different about it is losing a guy midway through the first half,” said Barlow.
“You have a lead at that point so we knew we had to keep ourselves organized and keep things tight but the guys responded with so much energy that we went out and got two more goals. We knew at some point that Harvard was going to come at us and throw a lot of numbers forward. Fortunately, we were able to hang on and the clock ran out.”
Barlow was surprised at how much energy he got from the gimpy McSherry.
“He wasn’t even going to play tonight,” said Barlow. “He didn’t train yesterday, he couldn’t kick a ball yesterday. His ankle was killing him from an injury in training. We didn’t start him because we didn’t think he would be able to give us much tonight and he wound up being great. He had a great goal to get things started.”
The Tigers got great contributions from a number of players, including senior striker Porter and sophomore midfielder Brian Costa.
“Porter was clutch,” said Barlow of Porter, who was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week. “Brian Costa had another good effort in a game that required so much defending.”
Princeton’s clutch win kept it alive in the Ivy title hunt as it locked in a three-way tie for second with Penn (6-6-1 overall, 2-1-1 Ivy) and Harvard (8-4-1 overall, 2-1-1 Ivy) behind frontrunner Dartmouth (8-4-1 overall, 3-1 Ivy).
“We are still in the hunt; we knew if we lost tonight we were out of the race,” said Barlow, whose team plays at Cornell (9-4-1 overall, 2-2 Ivy) on November 1.
“It says a lot about how much these guys put into it. They knew it was a really, really important game and they responded.”
McSherry, for his part, believes that Princeton has a lot going for it.
“We are excited about where we sit in the Ivy League,” said McSherry. “I think looking past the Ivy League we are excited about where we stand in the overall picture.”