Senior Matar Grandi Enjoyed Memorable Home Finale, Getting Goal as PHS Boys’ Soccer Rolled in State Semi
GRAND SLAM: Princeton High boys’ soccer player Felipe Matar Grandi goes after the ball in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Group 4 final last Saturday at Franklin High. Senior midfielder and co-captain Matar Grandi helped PHS top Kearny 3-2 as the Tigers won their first state title since 2012 and fourth overall. Matar Grandi tallied a goal as PHS topped Washington Township 4-0 in the state semis on last Wednesday to punch its ticket to the final. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
For Felipe Matar Grandi, some practice made perfect for him as the Princeton High boys’ soccer team hosted Washington Township in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Group 4 state semis last Wednesday afternoon.
With PHS leading Washington 1-0 in the second half, senior midfielder and co-captain Matar Grandi got position near the goal and with a ball flying towards him, he leaped up and headed the ball into the back of the net.
“It felt great, I saw it coming; we have been working on headers all season and I was like we have to put one in,” said Matar Grandi. “I told Walsh (PHS head coach Ryan Walsh) it is coming in a big moment. I just headed it and it went in.”
The Tigers kept coming, pulling away to a 4-0 win over Washington and punching their ticket to the state final.
“We have one game left senior year, it feels awesome to help the team, scoring in a big game,” said Matar Grandi. “It is the last game on this field for me.”
In the early stages of contest, PHS generated a slew of scoring chances but found themselves in a scoreless draw at halftime. Matar Grandi and his teammates remained confident depute not finding the back of the net over the first 40 minutes of the contest.
“We had total control,” said Matar Grandi. “We knew it was coming, we knew we had to put one in the back of the net. It was just make no mistakes and stay focused the whole game.”
Two minutes into the second half, Pasquale Carusone scored on a header to break the ice and PHS never looked back.
“We just play our game, we are going to get in, let’s finish it,” said Matar Grandi. “We knew once we got one, more were going to come. That is how it went.”
Over his PHS career, Matar Grandi has come a long way. “Since I was a sophomore in this program, I have just been growing in it both as a player and as a person,” said Matar Grandi. “All the coaches really helped me grow. Walsh has been phenomenal this year.”
Tiger head coach Walsh was thrilled to see Matar Grandi’s hard work pay off with the goal against Washington.
“Felipe is such an emotional player, he gives everything he has in every training session and every game, you can see it,” said Walsh. “It is so good to see him score because the role he is playing for us right now is a lot of the dirty work. He is playing an outside mid for us. We have him tucked in a little bit, he is too good defensively to put him up too high. We want him to break plays. He is not always our go-to goal scorer. When he puts one in the back of the net, it is great to see.”
Serving as a team co-captain along with classmate Nick Matese, Matar Grandi has been a great experience for him.
“It is a privilege,” said Matar Grandi. “The guys are awesome. I am friends with all of them, we all have a great connection. I love winning.”
Heading into the state final against Kearny, Matar Grandi was confident that the Tigers would keep winning and he was correct as PHS rallied for a 3-2 win to earn the program’s first state title since 2012 and fourth overall.
“I think we go in with confidence like we have all season,” said Matar Grandi, looking ahead to the championship contest. “We are going to play our game and we are going to kick butt. We are going to win.”