While PHS Boys’ Soccer Struggled Down the Stretch, Future Looks Bright for Squad Stocked with Young Talent
JACK SHOW: Princeton High boys’ soccer player Jack Serxner boots the ball in a game this fall. Senior defender Serxner starred for PHS as it went 8-8-1 this season. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Getting off to a 7-1 start this fall, the Princeton High boys’ soccer team appeared to be on the way to another banner season.
But getting hit with a rash of injuries and plagued by a lack of scoring punch, PHS limped home to finish with an 8-8-1 record, falling 3-0 to Howell in the first round of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Central Jersey Group 4 sectional in its season finale.
Despite the late season slump, PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe enjoyed the ride this fall.
“It is a young team; Ryan (assistant coach Ryan Walsh) and I had the most rewarding experience working with them every day with their quality, their perseverance, and their honesty,” said Sutcliffe. “They are all good players, they are just a little young. It was a great season, you are dealt these things.”
Unfortunately, dealing with injuries became a theme of the 2022 campaign.
“We had a plethora of injuries; at one point late in the season, we had four starters injured and those four guys were perhaps the most experienced players,” said Sutcliffe, who lost his top returning scorer Richard Wegmann to injury before the season even started and saw such stars as Felipe Matar Grandi, Nick Matese, and Emanuel Noyola sidelined by knocks at times this fall.
Sutcliffe credited a trio of battle-tested seniors, Leo George, Jack Serxner and Noyola, with holding things together.
“In their four years, they spent so much energy and effort and they contributed a lot to the team,” said Sutcliffe of the three senior standouts. “They were the three who started and they have been with the team since freshman season. Along the way, whether it was injury or transfer or club commitment, they were the three who finished. I just want to thank them for all of their hard work and effort. It was a pleasure working with them.”
With its younger players showing their skill, PHS was a pleasure to watch this fall as it featured a possession game.
“Between the 18-yard boxes, I only saw one team that I thought was really better than us,” said Sutcliffe. “It is just in the attacking 18, we couldn’t find the quality. That is through no fault of anyone. It is experience.”
The team’s contingent of young players which featured sophomores Brian Donis, Archie Smith, Azariah Breitman, Matthew Chao, and goalie Nicholas Holmelund along with junior standouts Patrick Kenah, Brandon Urias, Matthew Kim, James Reynolds, Matese, and Matar Grandi got some hard-earned experience this fall.
“We have had other teams which were comprised of sophomores or juniors who had some challenges in a particular season and then the next season they did really well,” said Sutcliffe. “I am thinking about the 2014 team that won everything but the state final. In 2013, those kids were just taking it on the chin, they were a year older and a year better the next fall.”
Sutcliffe believes that a similar thing could happen next fall for PHS as the players never wavered in their commitment this season while weathering the challenges they faced.
“The chemistry at the end was fantastic, it was as good as it has ever been,” said Sutcliffe. “The camaraderie, chemistry, and work rate were phenomenal. They were so much fun to work with, they never got discouraged. They are going to be a great team next year.”