Producing Superb Effort in 2-1 Loss to Hun, PDS Boys’ Soccer Fired Up for Prep B Semi
KEEN EFFORT: Princeton Day School boys’ soccer player Joaquin Rodriguez, left, controls the ball in a game earlier this season. Last week, senior star midfielder Rodriguez scored a goal in a losing cause as PDS fell 2-1 to the Hun School. The Panthers, who lost 1-0 to Jackson Memorial last Monday in moving to 3-8-2, will be competing in the Prep B state tournament this week where they are seeded fifth and will be playing at top-seeded Gill St. Bernard’s on October 20 in a semifinal contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
On paper, it looked like a mismatch when the Princeton Day School boys’ soccer team hosted a powerhouse Hun School squad last week.
PDS brought a 3-6-2 record into the October 11 contest while Hun stood at 8-2-1, including a 3-0 win over a Pennington team that had routed the Panthers 6-0 earlier in the season.
But PDS head coach Brian Thomsen had a plan to slow the Raiders, packing his team in with nine players patrolling the defensive end.
“They are dangerous off set pieces as we saw; they do a good job of counterattacking if you press them high,” said Thomsen. “We tried to minimize as much time as we could on the ball in dangerous spots. We didn’t want Connor [Frykholm] to get the ball in the center of the park. We were OK with Connor getting the ball outside on the wing. We were trying to minimize how much that was happening and it worked for the longest time.”
While Hun did get a goal 10 minutes into the game, the Panther defense held the fort for the rest of the half and the first 18 minutes of the second before it tied up the game on a goal by senior star Joaquin Rodriguez.
“In games like this where you are sitting in and seeing what they are about, you have got to pick your moments to go,” said Thomsen. “It is when you can see and sense the frustration from them — what they were dealing with on the other side. We probably could have snuck another one in.”
Hun, though, was able to get one in with 2:03 left in regulation to pull out a 2-1 win. Although PDS fell short of the upset, Thomsen was thrilled with the way his players battled.
“It is the best effort I have seen from the boys all year with how disciplined they were,” asserted Thomsen. “It is a good sign going into tournament season.”
Thomsen got very good efforts from Rodriguez and senior defender Raag Desikan.
“Joaquin needed that goal a lot, he has been struggling the past week to put the ball in the back of the net,” said Thomsen. “It was very impressive how composed he was in that final moment there to finish the ball. We wanted to put Raag in a situation where he didn’t have to mark anybody, shadowing like on old-time sweeper. We played with a line of four in front of him so they were literally looking at five people every time they attacked versus four, or a diamond or three.”
With fifth-seeded PDS playing at top-seeded Gill St. Bernard’s in the Prep B state semis on October 20, Thomsen believes that the effort against Hun is something his squad built on.
“This was a good test for us, it was how do we minimize the amount of goals we can give up and keep the boys disciplined when we go to play these other games,” said Thomsen, whose team fell 1-0 to Jackson Memorial last Monday in moving to 3-8-2 and has a regular season game at Hopewell Valley in October 22.
“Gill is probably going to be the hardest opponent we play against. We played them in the state final last year and we probably should have sat in but we had too many pieces that could be dangerous so we decided to go after them.”
After finishing play in the Prep B tournament, the Panthers will be concluding the season by competing in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Non-Public tourney.
“We will see what happens, I am excited for next couple of weeks,” said Thomsen. “It is tournament time, and the boys start to get fired up around this time and they play with some belief.”