PRINCETON: PHS rolls in state boys’ soccer opener

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Princeton High boys soccer coaches (left to right) Wayne Sutcliffe

By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
Wayne Sutcliffe knows that soccer can be an unforgiving game.
The long-time Princeton High boys’ soccer coach experienced that first-hand last year when his second-seeded Little Tigers were upset by 15th-seeded Manalapan in the opening round of the Central Jersey, Group IV state tournament.
This year, as the No. 3 seed in Central Jersey, Group IV, Princeton was not going to take 14th-seeded Middletown South lightly.
The Little Tigers scored twice in the closing minutes of the opening half and then produced three more goals in the second half to go on and post a 5-0 victory.
Princeton advanced to play as the host to 11th-seeded Long Branch in the state sectional quarterfinals on Friday at 2 p.m.
Montgomery, the No. 12 seed in Central Jersey, Group IV, advanced to the quarterfinals with a 1-0 victory at fifth-seeded South Brunswick. Jace Orvos scored the lone goal of the game with an assist from Charlie Rodgers. Nick Millett made 10 saves to pick up the winning decision in goal. The Cougars will play home to 13th-seeded East Brunswick in the quarterfinals on Friday.
In girls’ soccer state tournament play, ninth-seeded Princeton opened Central Jersey, Group IV play with a 7-2 victory at eighth-seeded Edison.
Colette Marciano scored three goals and Devon Lis contributed two goals to lead the Little Tigers, who were scheduled to play at top-seeded Freehold Township on Thursday. Montgomery, the No. 14 seed, dropped a 1-0 decision at third-seeded Hunterdon Central in Central Jersey, Group IV.  Alison Walsh made 12 saves for the Cougars.
The Princeton boys’ soccer team improved to 13-5-1 with the victory over Middletown South.
“The incentive was to get through the first 10 minutes with a clean sheet and have a good, fresh start to the game,” said Sutcliffe. “We wanted to find each other well and try to put some pressure on and try to get the first goal.”
The Little Tigers hit on that first goal when Quentin Pompliano scored off a set piece with 2:22 to play in the first half. Before the half was over, Andrew Beamer would score the first of his three goals in the game to send Princeton into halftime with a 2-0 lead.
“He’s been working on that for two years,” Sutcliffe said of Pompliano’s goal. “This year he hasn’t really hit a pill like that. All credit to Quentin for staying over it and getting it on frame. That was the biggest goal of the game.”
The two goals late in the half were more than enough for the Princeton defense, which posted its eighth shutout of the season. Patrick Jacobs made three saves in goal to gain the shutout.
“Our defense, the key to it is the communication,” center back Noah Middlekauf said. “As long as we spend a lot of time talking and making each other aware of our surroundings that is when we are good to go. I like to talk to my teammates. It makes things easier for everybody if they know what is going on around them.”
“We like to get our outside backs involved. At the same time we like to be smart with how we use them. We’re near the end of the season now so it is important that everyone understands where they are needed on the field.”
After losing in the opening round of the state tournament last year, Princeton came out focused and ready to play a solid game against Middletown South. The Little Tigers also bounced back nicely from a tough overtime loss to Pennington in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals.
“It was definitely a tough loss to Pennington,” Middlekauf said. “We always plan to go far in the Mercer County Tournament and we were disappointed not to make the final. We just recently went to Group 4 and no team has really made a dent in the sectional final or state championship. So we’re focusing one game at a time on Group 4.
“The thing about the state tournament is you have teams coming from all different conferences that we don’t see during the season. You just have to go into every game with a good attitude. For those of us who were there last year, we still remember. With that being said, last year is last year and this year is this year. We don’t really worry about that happened last year.”
Princeton will now play Long Branch, which upset sixth-seeded West Windsor-Plainsboro South. With a victory, the Little Tigers would face either second-seeded Monroe or 10th-seeded Trenton in the sectional semifinals.
“The seeds don’t matter, especially in Central 4,” Sutcliffe said. “Every team is a good team so you have to be really in that mentality where you are playing Cup final every time.”
The offense came away with a big game in the victory on Tuesday, while Middlekauf and the defense were also up to the task.
“Middlekauf has the presence,” Sutcliffe said. “He’s got verbal command that he is able to use because he sees the game and reads it very well on both sides of the ball. He and Ian Jacobs are the two center backs and they have to just keep getting better.”