October 11, 2017

Lifted By Superb Effort From O’Toole, Tiger Men’s Soccer Defeats Villanova

SHARP TOOL: Princeton University men’s soccer player Kevin O’Toole dribbles the ball against Villanova last Wednesday. Freshman midfielder O’Toole contributed a goal and an assist to help Princeton earn a 2-0 win over the Wildcats. The Tigers, who lost 1-0 at Brown last Saturday to fall to 2-6-2 overall and 0-2 Ivy League, host Columbia on October 14. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

The bounces had gone against the Princeton University men’s soccer team this fall as it started 1-5-2 with each of the defeats coming by one goal.

Last Wednesday evening against visiting Villanova, Princeton freshman midfielder Kevin O’Toole kicked the Tigers into the win column, assisting on a goal by Benji Issroff in the first minute of the contest and later curling the ball into the top corner of the net with 18 minutes remaining in the second half for his first career tally and the finishing touch on a 2-0 win.

“We have been harping on putting away our chances; we have created so many this season but they just haven’t fallen our way,” said O’Toole.

“It was a big relief to get mine and Benji really gave us a great start with getting his earlier in the game. It built some confidence going forward for us.”

O’Toole displayed confidence on his goal, not hesitating to pull the trigger when he saw his chance.

“I played a ball into [Jeremy] Colvin and I saw that there was no one else ready to support so he just laid it off to me and I tried to make the best of it,” said O’Toole.

“I saw there was one defender left so I just tried to take advantage and cut back on my left foot. It looked like it was a good trajectory to the corner. I got a good look at it and I was hoping the keeper didn’t get a hand on it.”

Getting his first college goal will provide a very good memory for O’Toole.

“It feels amazing; I have had chances before to put away in Syracuse and other games,” added O’Toole, a 5’10, 155-pound native of Montclair, N.J.

“It just feels good to get that first one and I am hoping to keep going.”

O’Toole acknowledged that making the jump to college soccer has put him under pressure.

“I would say definitely the physicality; especially in the first 20 minutes of college soccer games, it can be really hectic,” said O’Toole.

“Playing in the midfield position, it is important to get the ball off of your feet quick, which I hadn’t been used to in prior years playing at left back.”

Things are starting to be less hectic on the field for O’Toole. “I am starting to get a feel for the game, my teammates have been great in the transition process,” said O’Toole. “It is a great group of guys.”

Princeton head coach Jim Barlow was relieved to see his team get off to a great start against Villanova.

“We haven’t had many of those this year; Villanova is a good team and getting the first goal is really important,” said Barlow.

“It is another game where I thought in stretches, we played really well. The difference this time is defensively, we made sure that we stayed with it for 90 minutes and kept our focus. We didn’t let one or two plays get away from us.”

Barlow tipped his hat to the play of freshman Richard Wolf, junior Henry Martin, sophomore Bobby Hickson, sophomore Issroff, and senior Matt Mangini along the Tiger back line.

“I thought Wolf was the guy who kept it together in the back, but Henry and Bobby did a really good job too,” said Barlow.

“They were really solid back there with Benji sitting in front of them. Matt has been dealing with some injuries so we tried to rest him for a half and brought him in the second half and I thought he did a good job.”

O’Toole has been doing a good job on a daily basis for the Tigers.

“Kevin has been solid for us all year,” said Barlow. “It is good to see him starting to add more to the attack, getting shots and creating chances.”

With Princeton hosting Columbia on October 14, Barlow is looking for his players to be more clinical in finishing their chances.

“We lead the league in shots taken and we haven’t given up a goal in the first half all year so our problem has been conceding late in games and losing leads,” lamented Barlow, whose team followed that pattern last Saturday, falling 1-0 at Brown on a late goal to drop to 2-6-2 overall and 0-2 Ivy League.

In O’Toole’s view, the win over Villanova shows the Tigers that they can hold a lead.

“So many tough losses down the stretch can really kill morale,” said O’Toole.

“We have a team mantra, one in a row, and so we will take this one in a row. It is great to get one and hopefully keep it snowballing as we go through the Ivy League.”