September 15, 2021

With Senior Star Carusone Blasting In Winning Goal, PHS Boys’ Soccer Edges Robbinsville 2-1 in Opener

NICK OF TIME: Princeton High boys’ soccer player Nico Carusone heads a ball in a 2020 game. Last Wednesday, senior forward Carusone scored the winning goal late in the second half as PHS edged Robbinsville 2-1 in its season opener. The Tigers, who tied Steinert 0-0 last Saturday, play at WW/P-North in September 18 before hosting Allentown on September 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Nico Carusone knew it was time to step up.

With the Princeton High boys’ soccer team deadlocked 1-1 against Robbinsville late in the second half last Wednesday in the season opener, senior striker Carusone produced a moment of brilliance.

Getting the ball in the box, Carusone wheeled and blasted the ball into the back of the net to score and give PHS the margin of victory in a 2-1 triumph.

“With 15 minutes left in the game, we had to bring it all,” said Carusone. “I knew the goal was there and I hit it.”

It took a while for PHS to get into a rhythm as the foes were deadlocked in a scoreless draw at the half.

“They had their back line so far back, they were letting us play in front of them which kind of led to our possession,” said Carusone.

“I  think they did a really good job of keeping a hold of us. Once we got a break before the second half, we told the team what they were doing and we figured out how to score two goals.”

The trio of Carusone, sophomore Patrick Kenah, and junior Richard Wegman started figuring out things after halftime with Kenah tallying the first goal of the day, slotting in a rebound 14 minutes into the half.

“We are all on the same page at this point, we had a really good preseason together,” said Carusone.

“All three of us scored some nice goals in the preseason and now it is showing in the regular season.

In Carusone’s view, PHS is getting on the same page collectively as it welcomes some new faces to the lineup.

“Last year we had a lot of seniors, we had an abbreviated season, you could say, so it is great to get going,” said Carusone.

“We have a lot of new guys here, a lot of guys I haven’t played with before.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe acknowledged that his squad didn’t play well in the early stages against Robbinsville.

“It was a little slow start, it was a little disconnected,” said Sutcliffe.

“I thought they had a better start, we were pleased with the second 20 minutes of the first half. We were just finding some connections, putting some passes together and threatening.”

Kenah has been threatening since the start of preseason. “That is his fourth goal of the year, including all scrimmages and everything,” said Sutcliffe.

“He has had an impressive preseason; he is a really good player. He has established himself through his quality and his athleticism.”

Sutcliffe is not surprised that Carusone came through with the game-winner.

“That is expected from him because this is his third year as a starter and he is capable of a clinical finish like that in a big moment,” said Sutcliffe of Carusone.

The Tiger defense came through in some big moments, led by senior goalie Carl Birge making his first varsity start.

“The back four had their hands full because Robbinsville was finding some possession deep, putting a couple together and then hitting a long one, launching it,” said Sutcliffe, whose team tied Steinert 0-0 last Saturday and plays at WW/P-North in September 18 before hosting Allentown on September 21.

“It was very problematic in the first half but then in the second half with this wind, I think it was a factor in the game. Credit to the back four and Carl. He kept us in the game, he had a big save on one that went off the bar. It was a great save.”

The win tasted a bit sweeter for PHS since it fell 3-2 to Robbinsville in 2020.

“We are really pleased, there was a little something extra today after last year,” said Sutcliffe.

“What we need to do is to take to heart winning the opening game. Going ahead in a game, drawing level and then finding a way to win it late. That is what we are taking from this, pulling it out and finding a way.”

Sutcliffe likes the way his squad has pulled together. “I am just really proud, we worked very hard all summer long and couldn’t be more proud of not just the guys on the field but every guy on the team,” said Sutcliffe.

“We had a great preseason camp. We are a team and we are going to stay a team.”

Carusone, for his part, is looking for a great final campaign with PHS.

“It is my senior year,” said Carusone. “Especially with the abbreviated season before, it is even more important to make the most of the season.”