PHS Girls’ Soccer Nips Robbinsville 1-0 in Sectionals As Goalie Ayodele Spearheads Superb Defensive Effort
COMING UP BIG: Princeton High girls’ soccer goalie Moji Ayodele makes a save in recent action. Last Friday, senior star Ayodele made 12 saves to help top-seeded PHS edge ninth-seeded Robbinsville 1-0 in the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional quarterfinals. The Tigers were slated to host fourth-seeded Colts Neck in the sectional semis on November 9 with the victor advancing to the final on November 12. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Moji Ayodele wasn’t quite herself last fall as she played for the Princeton High girls’ soccer team, hampered by injury and illness.
Coming into this fall, senior goalie Ayodele was determined to be at full strength for her final campaign for PHS.
“I worked a lot this summer on coming back strong,” said Ayodele.
“I wouldn’t say I had much of a high school season last year with COVID.”
That work paid off as Ayodele got off to a strong start this fall, posting six shutouts as the Tigers produced a 7-0 start.
“I think since I have had this full season, I have been able to get back on track,” said Ayodele.
Last Friday, Ayodele helped keep PHS on track for a sectional title, making 12 saves to help the top-seeded Tigers edge ninth-seeded Robbinsville 1-0 in the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional quarterfinals and improve to 18-2.
PHS got the margin of victory on a goal by senior star Sophia Lis with 2:07 left in regulation and were slated to host fourth-seeded Colts Neck in the sectional semis on November 9 with the victor advancing to the final on November 12.
Even though the Tigers had defeated Robbinsville 5-0 in the season opener, Ayodele knew things were going to be a lot tougher in the rematch.
“We played them in our first game and they were missing a lot of people,” said Ayodele.
“It definitely showed today that a lot of those players change their game. They have a strong offensive team and their offside trap got to us today. We usually use our breakaways to score a lot and those weren’t hitting today because of those offside calls. In the end we persevered, we broke through.”
Although PHS wasn’t hitting its shots, Ayodele was confident that it come through in the end.
“I knew a goal was coming, I never doubt my team,” said Ayodele. “We always figure something out; one thing I love about this team is that we are so good at finishing.”
Over the course of the fall, Ayodele and the PHS back line have figured things out as the win over the Ravens marked the team’s 14th shutout of the campaign.
“I love my girls; my defense was right there today,” said Ayodele.
“I trust my girls in the back, we know how each other play. We work great together and I trust them so much. We are on that same level to play great defense.”
The PHS players have been on the same page as they have produced a great season.
“When we go into these games we always make sure that we have the best mentality that we are going to win this game,” said Ayodele.
“We always have positive affirmation, we make sure that we go into each game like that. When we win games like these, it just proves it more to us that we are a great team and we can take it all the way. When we are going into games that are more tough, we are ready.”
PHS head coach Dave Kosa liked the toughness his team displayed in edging the Ravens. “It was a great game, it was great tournament action,” said Kosa.
“We knew Robbinsville was going to come out strong, they have been playing really well the last month. We knew it was going to be a battle. We practiced against the offside trap, it is different to simulate it in practice than play it in the game. Give Robbinsville credit, they really played us tough. We just keep hanging in there. It is tournament action, survive and advance.”
Ayodele has hung in there all fall for PHS as its last line of defense.
“Moji is phenomenal, she works hard in practice,” said Kosa. “She always wants to come up with great saves. We had a couple of milestones this year she had 100 saves and she just relishes that opportunity. It is a testament to her work ethic as far as how good she has gotten. I knew she was good last year. The games we lost last year, she didn’t play, She is getting some good looks from some D-IIs and D-IIIs. I really believe in her a lot.”
Kosa also believes in his Lehigh-bound senior striker Lis, who now has 32 goals in 2021.
“Sophia is a great player, she is so smart and she is able to just feel the game,” said Kosa.
“Last year I was a varsity assistant, I knew what she could do. It was just a matter of putting her in good spots where she can just excel. She just upped her game to a level where I never thought it was.”
With the contest knotted at 0-0 and Lis having narrowly missed goals on a shot that went wide of the net on a breakaway and another that caromed off the crossbar, Kosa helped his players keep the faith.
“You have just got to keep them up, we have to just say, hey we have the momentum, let’s keep it up,” said Kosa.
“I think the wind was a little bit of a factor even though it didn’t seem like that much. In the first half, they had a lot of the play. In the second half, I said we have got the wind, we are going to get a couple and thankfully at the end, we did get one.”
Kosa believes that his squad can use the momentum from playing at home to extend its tournament run.
“We earned this home field advantage throughout the entire season, let’s keep it and they just stuck together with that,” said Kosa.
“Right now, we just want to keep doing what we are doing. I think there is naturally going to be pressure when you are the one seed. We don’t talk about it, we just work hard during practice and have that trust and belief in one another. Today was a perfect example, we didn’t play that well. Robbinsville played great and we just kept on hanging in there and battling.”
Ayodele, for her part, is confident that PHS will keep hanging together.
“Our group is very close, we have pasta dinners every week, we are hanging out, and we are all talking; there is no division between freshmen, sophomore, juniors, and seniors, we are all just great friends,” said Ayodele.
“Our senior group works together to make sure our underclassmen are on track with everything. The underclassmen have really stepped up this year. I think it all comes down to whether your team has chemistry. You can have great players but it is about working together. Our team has great chemistry, we know exactly how each other plays. We just work so well together and that is how we have a strong team.”