PRINCETON: System helps PHS boys’ soccer keep rolling along


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By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
The Princeton High boys’ soccer program has a system in place.
And it’s a system that has proven very successful under head coach Wayne Sutcliffe.
It has been the Princeton system that allows the Little Tigers to graduate key members of the roster every year, but always have players ready to step into the openings and excel in expanded roles.
“Soccer is a big deal in Princeton and we are fortunate to have good players who want to improve,” said Sutcliffe, whose team improved to 5-1-1 on the season with a 1-0 overtime victory over Nottingham on Tuesday. “It is not a hard sell on our end. It’s not always easy. A lot of it has to do with the way the teams conduct themselves at the JV and freshman levels and how well Ward (Ingersoll) does with the JV guys and Wilson (Urias) the last two years with freshman team. We just like to have the guys feel a part of something in the early days.”
And eventually those players get to the varsity level and contribute to a program that has won seven Mercer County titles under Sutcliffe, including sharing last year’s crown with Pennington.
This year players like Jun Hasegawa and Jasper Scott have stepped in on defense and helped the Little Tigers continue their strong play in the back. In seven games this season Princeton has allowed just five goals.
“Jun Hasagawa has done a fantastic job at outside back,” said Sutcliffe, whose team was scheduled to face Hightstown on Thursday. “I am very happy with his progress. And Jasper Scott is a center back and he is also doing well. Those are key spots. Both of those players were on the team last year but they didn’t play much. Jun in first half of the season got on at outside mid. Jasper has been fantastic. We were just so deep last year it was hard for them to get on the field.”
But in the Princeton system, both players knew if they continued to work on their game, their time would eventually come.
“We knew a year ago,” Sutcliffe said. “It is always a one- to two-year plan with players. We knew they both were talented players. The plan was to keep developing them and working closely with them and help them improve. We put them in challenge spots in training and games in the preseason and let them get a taste of it.”
On the offensive end, Dean Patel has moved into an expanded role and has become a player who can make a difference. On Tuesday, Patel scored the winning goal in overtime against Nottingham.
“Dean is not a new guy but he has a bigger role,” Sutcliffe said. “He is a very clever clinical player who we hope to keep making an impact. He can change a game. He plays for (club team) Princeton FC Tottenham and in our senior class we have 10 players on that club team. Dean is one of many who started as U8 and U9 players and they have been along the road the whole way. They have to seize the moment and make something out of it.”
Princeton’s lone loss this season was a 3-0 setback against state power Westfield. The Little Tigers have posted four shutouts and allowed just two goals in their other six games.
“I am very happy with how we have played,” Sutcliffe said. “We had a good, positive preseason with a lot of energy and we played a lot of experienced teams. We saw some good competition and fared well. A lot of planning goes into the preseason and we have annual games against some of the top teams in Central Jersey and North Jersey.”
Sutcliffe knows how tough the schedule in the Colonial Valley Conference can be every year so he wants his team ready to play right from the start. The Little Tigers are 5-0-1 in CVC play entering the clash with Hightstown.
“The margin between winning and losing is so narrow and the deeper you get into the season it gets even more narrow,” Sutcliffe said. “The parity in the CVC is really clear this year and anyone can knock off any other team. (West Windsor-Plainsboro) North is undefeated after a draw with Hightstown. And Hightstown has one loss and that was to St. Benedict’s. (WW-P ) South we played very confidently against. Notre Dame was the same thing as well as Robbinsville. Those are all good teams and you have to be ready to play every time.”

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