October 6, 2021

Sparked by Wegmann’s Offensive Production, PHS Boys’ Soccer Primed for Big Stretch Drive

ON THE BALL: Princeton High boys’ soccer player Richard Wegmann, center, dribbles the ball around a defender in recent action. Last Thursday, junior striker Wegmann tallied two goals to help PHS defeat Hamilton West 6-0. The Tigers, who fell 5-2 to Pingry School last Saturday to move to 6-1-1, play at Lawrence High on October 7 before hosting Notre Dame on October 12. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Even though the Princeton High boys’ soccer team led Hamilton West 2-0 at halftime last week, Richard Wegmann realized that a win wasn’t guaranteed.

“We knew that 2-0, the game is not done yet,” said PHS junior striker Wegmann. “We came out and we were ready to put it away.”

Wegmann helped put the game away for the Tigers, scoring two goals in the first 10 minutes of the second half as PHS pulled away to a 6-0 triumph in the September 28 contest and improved to 5-0-1.

His first tally came 2:33 into the half on a feed from senior star Nico Carusone.

“It was great pass from Nico, my striking partner,” said Wegmann.

“It is a real pleasure to play with him, he is great. He gave me a great ball and I just had to put it in.”

Wegmann found the back of the net eight minutes later, slotting in a feed from Cooper Ealy.

“It was another good through ball, we have been working on that connection with the midfield and it came through there,” said Wegmann.

“I had a little bit of space and I had to stick it towards goal and one of the touches was going to put it in.”

Having scored nine goals in a four-game span, including a pair of hat tricks, Wegmann has emerged as a key target in the box for the Tigers.

“I think the team knows that me and Nico are going to put the ball in the back of the net if we get it,” said Wegmann.

“Trust is really important on the team. It is really important for us and that is working very well for us.”

Wegmann has paid his dues, rising from a reserve role as  freshman year to a battle-tested veteran.

“It was a  fantastic experience to play as a freshman,” said Wegmann.

“Now this year I settle into the role where I am one of the guys who has been on here for the longest. So it is a reversal of role.”

With PHS going undefeated in its first six games, Wegmann likes the way the squad is playing.

“It is a great start,” said Wegmann. “It is a very different team this year. We have seven returning guys this year and I think we have settled into our roles very well.”

The Tigers have also benefitted from a positive team spirit. “It is a better attitude than I have seen before on this team and that is very nice,” said Wegmann. “It is a good group of guys and we all like each other.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe liked the way his squad took care of business in the second half against Hamilton.

“A 2-0 lead is a very dangerous score line in that regard,” said Sutcliffe, who got a goal and an assist from Breno Azevedo in the win with Carusone also tallying a goal and an assist, and Felipe Matar Grandi and Henry Guevara also scoring goals.

“We just thought if we could get one more, we would be in good shape.”

Wegmann has emerged as a dangerous player around goal for the Tigers.

“Richard is always a threat because of his pace and he is such a strong player,” said Sutcliffe.

“He is finding his confidence and he is finding some good form along with some good goals. He just needs to keep getting better on the ball and keep being more efficient with the ball when he is not in good spots and more clinical in the box when he has chances.”

Sutcliffe credited seniors Azevedo, Owen Deming, and Charlie Novak with having very good games against Hamilton.

“Breno was great today; in the last couple of games, he has really established himself,” said Sutcliffe.

“Owen had a good game in the hole. The best player on the field was Charlie, he didn’t lose a ball one time and won every ball. Charlie was phenomenal in that regard.”

The Tiger defense is establishing itself as a solid unit with senior goalie Carl Birge coming up big in his first season as a starter.

“We are most happy about only having conceded two goals in six games,” said Sutcliffe, whose team defeated Hightstown 3-1 last Thursday and then fell 5-2 to Pingry to suffer its first loss of the season and move to 6-1-1.

“Carl has done a great job. We have kept him out of trouble and he has come up big when we needed him to. We couldn’t be happier. The guys in front of him have so much experience so they can lend all of that experience in just keeping him in a good place. He has improved every day in training, he has worked so hard. He is smart and he is a great athlete. We are working very closely with him.”

PHS will have to keep working hard collectively as they face some formidable foes over the next few weeks before getting into postseason play.

“The second half of the CVC campaign is going to be really challenging,” said Sutcliffe.

“We are playing Hopewell next Tuesday. Notre Dame is on October 12. Lawrence is good, we play them on October 7.”

Sutcliffe believes that his team will rise to the occasion.

“I couldn’t be more pleased with the group’s work rate and their spirit,” said Sutcliffe.

“It has been phenomenal. It is a great team. They just have to keep believing and getting more confident and competitive  with one another.”

In Wegmann’s view, the Tigers are primed for a big stretch drive.

“We have a busy week going,” said Wegmann.“We are having fun, all of us are looking forward to it. We are in good shape. We have a good spirit, I think we are ready.”