Princeton High boys’ soccer gears up for state playoffs

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Princeton High School's defender Noah Lapoint (center #24) during the semifinal round of the Mercer County Tournament on Oct. 21.

The Princeton High School boys’ soccer team is applying the positives for the remainder of this season.

That attitude is result of the team’s loss in the semifinal round of the Mercer County Tournament.

Now the Little Tigers will prepare for the state playoffs.

Princeton fell to Notre Dame High School, 5-2, in the semifinal match in the county tournament against Notre Dame High School on Oct. 21 at Hopewell Valley Central High School.

“We have such a young team and only few seniors on this year’s squad,” Princeton coach Wayne Sutcliffe said. “Offensively, we clawed back in the semifinal round with Notre Dame.”

Prior to the start of this year’s county tournament, Princeton was on a three-game losing streak. The team turned things around when the county tournament play began, securing two victories to advance to the semifinals.

“Our mentality, more than anything, turned this around,” Sutcliffe said. “During the three games that we dropped, we were only a bounce away or a call away from results being different. It was more of a mentality that we were able to apply onto the field as we entered into the Mercer County Tournament, which helped. We won two games, and with a young team, that is encouraging.”

He said he wants his team to take from the semifinal loss the idea of not conceding goals early as the team heads into the state playoffs.

“We are in the state tournament beginning next Tuesday, so it is a matter of not conceding early in the game. Any soccer team wants to do that and get timely goals,” Sutcliffe said. “Getting a timely finish is something Nick Petruso is capable of and others guys as well who also stepped up tonight. A lot of positives came from the game, despite the score.”

The team is 12-7 overall this season and has compiled a 9-4 record in the Colonial Valley Conference.

The Little Tigers will be playing in NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 4 sectional playoffs come next week.

“The way to win tournaments is to not concede goals and capitalize at the other end. The tolerance of mistakes in the back line is less and less as the season progress,” Sutcliffe said. “Being sharp, tight and urgent will be key to a long run in the state playoffs.”

He said he wants the team to take the positives from the game and draw the confidence you get from chasing a game.

Junior midfielder Nick Petruso has been a spark for this Little Tigers team and has guided the team with his 15 goals during the season.

“For the offense, it will be key to keep the ball at midfield and pass the ball up to our forwards as we enter into the state playoffs. We have more team chemistry as well and have gotten to know each other more,” Petruso said.

Before Princeton begins the team’s state playoff run next week, it has  a home match against Hopewell Valley Central High School on Oct. 25 at 3 p.m.