November 10, 2021

Enjoying Memorable Run in its First Non-Public Sectional, 7th-Seeded PDS Boys’ Soccer To Play Ranney in Final

STEPPING UP: Princeton Day School boys’ soccer player Milan Shah controls the ball in a game earlier this fall. Last Thursday, senior star Shah tallied two goals to help seventh-seeded PDS defeat second-seeded Holy Cross Prep 3-2 South Jersey Non-Public B sectional quarterfinals. On Monday, Shah got two assists to help the Panthers edge sixth-seeded Bishop Eustace 3-2 in the sectional semis. PDS, now 11-11, will play at fifth-seeded Ranney School (11-4-1) on November 11 in the sectional final with the victor advancing to the Non-Public B state final on November 14. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Although it’s the first-ever trip to the South Jersey Non-Public B sectional for the Princeton Day School boys’ soccer program, Brian Thomsen believed his squad could make a big run in the tourney.

“Knowing who is in our sectional for the state tournament, in the back of my mind, I always kind of knew this was the tournament for this group to be successful,” said PDS first-year head coach Thomsen.

“I know the section pretty well and it is a lot of hardworking guys that will make your life miserable on the physical side of the game. So if you are not ready to go battle with your teammates, it is going to be a long day.”

Displaying a battling spirit, seventh-seeded PDS has enjoyed great success in the sectional, knocking off 10th-seeded Gloucester Catholic 8-0 in a first round contest on November 1, upsetting second-seeded Holy Cross Prep 3-1 last Thursday in the quarters, and then edging sixth-seeded Bishop Eustace 3-2 in the semis last Monday.

The Panthers, now 11-11, will play at fifth-seeded Ranney School (11-4-1) on November 11 in the sectional final with the victor advancing to the Non-Public B state final on November 14 at Kean University.

In Thomsen’s view, a 2-1 win over Spotswood on October 28 helped prepare PDS for the sectional.

“I think the key was that we picked up a game against Spotswood the week before,” said Thomsen.

“In my head, I said this was going to be very similar in terms of the environment and the level of play we are going to see in the sectional so let’s go down there. We completely dominated that game. We went up 2-0, we couldn’t get the third goal and then we made too much chaos at the end and there was a PK call.”

Over the course of the fall, the Panthers have been tested by playing a number of high level foes.

“We drive all over the state of New Jersey. We had to go to Newark Academy, we played at Montclair Kimberley Academy in the Prep B semis,” said Thomsen, whose team has faced such formidable opponents as Pennington, Notre Dame, Pingry, Lawrenceville, Peddie, Hun School, and WW/P-South this fall.

“They know how to travel. Our schedule top to bottom, I have to say, is probably one of the toughest in the state. Everybody that we played against, besides a couple of teams here or there, were quality games. It does make a difference — they have played against the best teams in the state.”

In the win over Gloucester Catholic, senior Milan Shah displayed his quality, tallying three goals and three assists.

“The funny part is that he didn’t even play that well on the first half,” said Thomsen.

“He hit two or three shots directly at the keeper. In the second half, we exploited them a little more.”

Against Holy Cross, Shah buried some more shots, tallying two goals in the win.

“I would say that game was Milan’s best game so far this year,” said Thomsen, who also got a goal from Connor Topping in the victory with Joaquin Rodriguez picking up two assists.

“It is the first time I have seen him play a full 80 minutes from front to back and really go for it. I think he is starting to realize that this is going to end soon.”

The return of senior John Ramos from an early season injury and the emergence of Rodriguez as an offensive force has help spark the run for the Panthers.

“John has been cleared to play and he has been back since Spotswood,” said Thomsen.

“You can tell with his game intelligence and how he reads the game, he calms everybody out there and he has brought a new motivation for everybody. It is like we have got Ramos back, let’s do this. I have been able to move Joaquin a little higher up the field. I have been talking to him a lot about how to attack versus what his instincts are telling him trying to give more of a game plan of how I want him to go about it. It has worked pretty well.”

Going into the Bishop Eustace game, Thomsen was confident that his players would keep up their good work.

“I think it is going to be a very similar game to last Thursday, looking at their results and who they have played against,” said Thomsen, who got two goals from Rodriguez and one from Todd Devin in the victory with Shah getting two assists.

“As long as the boys show up and they work their tails off, we will be all right.”

With the late season run, PDS has shown how good it can be.

“I think they are playing at the highest level according to the game plan we are talking about,” said Thomsen.

“We kicked ourselves in the foot a lot this year by not figuring out how to win some games that we needed to win. They are in a good spot mentally now.”