November 24, 2021

Fueled By Yet Another Clutch Goal from Senior Star Lis, PHS Girls’ Soccer Edged Lacey in OT to Make State Final

SO BRILLIANT: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Sophia Lis heads to goal in state tournament action. Senior star and Lehigh-bound Lis helped fuel an unprecedented postseason run for PHS as it reached the state final for the first time in program history. Lis tallied nine goals in the squad’s postseason run, including the winning goals in the sectional quarterfinal, semis, and final and Group 3 semis. She tallied the one goal for the Tigers in a2-1 overtime defeat to Wayne Valley in the Group 3 final in Sunday, giving her 38 for the season, the second highest single-season total in CVC history behind the 65 scored by Steinert’s Lisa Gmitter in 1982. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Sophia Lis appeared exhausted as the Princeton High girls’ soccer team prepared to go into overtime against Lacey Township in the state Group 3 semis last Wednesday.

As the PHS players stood in a huddle around Tiger head coach Dave Kosa getting their final instructions before starting the extra session as the foes had played to a scoreless stalemate, a red-faced senior star forward Lis sat on the bench, gulping Gatorade and catching her breath.

Having battled a pesky Lacey defense on its pockmarked grass field as she made run after run to goal, Lis had plenty of reason to be spent.

“I think the grass has a really bad effect on my legs, I have always found that,” said Lis.

“But the playing field is even for everybody. It was hard for me to get over that but this is what we have worked so hard for the whole season so I might as well give it everything I have got this game and see how it plays out.”

Minutes into OT, Lis gave PHS the win, making a run down the flank and dipping the ball over the Lacey goalie.

“I won the ball and I just turned and dribbled down the sideline,” said Lis, recalling the winning tally.

“I have been finding this whole season, I have been doing a lot of sideline work. So using my speed I just ran to the corner and took a shot to see if maybe a rebound could be found or it could find the back of the net. I was fortunate that this time, it did.”

Seconds later, Lis was mobbed by her teammates as they sprinted across the field to hug her.

“It was crazy, every game has been so unexpected this season,” said Lis

“It is well deserved. It is a crazy feeling to be in the finals now.”

The Lions gave PHS a tough game, utilizing their home field advantage to get the better of play during much of the contest. PHS goalie Moji Ayodele was tested a number of times, making several diving stops in recording nine saves.

“Lacey is such a great team; it is always hard going into these games where we don’t know our competition,” said Lis

“We didn’t know the teams they play, so it is hard to make a comparison of what you should expect. I am so proud of the effort my team put in to keep it 0-0 and keep going into overtime which we haven’t done a lot this season.”

While Lis was frustrated as Lacey thwarted a number of her runs, she was determined to keep firing away.

“If I keep trying my best, eventually one of the chances will go in,” said Lis, who nearly scored in the waning seconds as a volley just missed the mark.

“I know my teammates are there for me if there is a rebound because that is also something we are big on, getting that rebound. So as long as I put it up in the air only good things can happen. That was my thought process and not let the other misses effect it.”

PHS head coach Dave Kosa implored his team to keep trying their best.

“Lacey is a solid team, they were first to the ball,” said Kosa.

“I just told our girls, keep on hanging in there. They play in the tough Shore conference, I knew it was going to be a battle. All of their games were really close games against top-notch teams in the state. We just kept hanging in there and hanging in there. The soccer gods were a little kind to us with a couple of posts they hit.”

As the game headed into OT, Kosa felt his team was poised to come through.

“I thought we were confident,” said Kosa. “Just looking at the girls at halftime, it is we are in a battle. We were feeling a little bit down about ourselves. I tried to pump them up a little bit for the second half and we played better. I think we could have played even better and more aggressive but give credit to them, they controlled the majority of the play. We just hung in there and with somebody like Sophia, you are never out of it.”

But in the end, Lacey couldn’t control Lis. “She is big time, one of the best I have seen around,” said Kosa of Lis, noting that the Lehigh-bound standout scored the winning goal in the sectional quarterfinals (a 1-0 win over Robbinsville), the sectional semis (a 3-1 win over Colts Neck) the sectional final (a 2-0 win over Hopewell) before her heroics against Lacey.

“She left it all out in the field. They are marking her, they are holding her. She gets by one, there is another, she gets by a second, there is a third. They had a great center back she anticipated really well. We just kept on plugging along, plugging along and that is what you have to do when you get to this point.”

The brilliance of Lis this fall has been the product of an arduous and sometimes painful process.

“She wants it, she expects great things,” said Kosa of Lis, who ended up scoring her 38th and final goal of the campaign last Sunday as PHS lost 2-1 to Wayne Valley in the Group 3 final, giving her the second highest single-season total in CVC history behind the 65 scored by Steinert’s Lisa Gmitter in 1982.

“She has worked so hard to get to this point. She sat out her sophomore year with an injury the entire year. That was so tough for her. She is just a great team player. She keeps putting us on her back and continues to lead us in pretty much every game. In every big game she rises. It is really a tribute to her because a lot of the teams game plan for her and she still scores. She is going through two, three, four people.”

Making it to the state final was a great thing for Kosa and his players.

“It is amazing, it hasn’t sunk in yet because we kept on concentrating on each game,” said Kosa.

“They were talking the entire season that there was more to play. We don’t want this to end so for us to continue, it just means everything for the program. For all of the good teams Princeton had had in the past, we are there.”

Lis, for her part, won’t soon forget her final campaign for the Tigers.

“It has been so unexpected, especially as a final hurrah for senior year,” said Lis.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better team to do this with. I am really proud and happy with our efforts.”

And PHS couldn’t have asked for anything more than they have gotten from Lis this season.