PRINCETON: Soccer tune-up ends in tie

PHS, Pirate boys head to MCT as top seeds

By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
   It was the kind of game you want your team to play right before the start of the biggest games of the season.
   Princeton High and West Windsor-Plainsboro South are the top two seeds for the Mercer County Boys Soccer Tournament, which continues with eight first-round games today and Saturday. The two teams met on Tuesday and played to a scoreless tie in what just might have been a preview of the MCT finals.
   ”It’s tournament level energy and if this was a tournament game we would have decided it on penalties,” said WW-P South coach Brian Welsh, whose team was 11-2-1 after the loss. “I think it will make us better for both the county and the state tournament.
   ”I think it was a good game for both of our teams. It makes you ready and it makes me excited for the tournament.”
   The teams battled through 80 scoreless minutes of regulation play, then another 20 in overtime. During the overtime, Princeton had a couple of nice chances to score, but could not convert.
   ”We had three or four outstanding chances,” said Princeton coach Wayne Sutcliffe, whose team took a 9-0-4 mark into Thursday’s game with WW-P North. “We hit the bar twice. We worked hard to create some good opportunities, but we should have had one. We had four in overtime. That makes it a little disappointing. I was pleased with the effort but not with the result.
   ”I thought the atmosphere was pretty good, but I thought the soccer could have been better from our guys. We had a great effort but we didn’t play our best game.”
   Princeton had won six in a row prior to the tie and should be well prepared for the MCT after a final week of the regular season that included games against WW-P North and WW-P South.
   ”The stakes get a little higher,” said Sutcliffe, whose team recorded its 10th shutout of the season. “You play your season to do well now. To end our season with South and North is a challenge and also very good preparation for the Mercer County Tournament then into the state tournament.”
   WW-P South had won nine in a row prior to the tie with Princeton. Welsh feels like his team has itself well prepared for the start of tournament play.
   ”Even if they snuck one in, I thought we really battled,” he said. “I was proud of the way our defense handled the pressure and how Henry (MacQueen, the South goalkeeper) handled it. We did not create enough chances if we’re going to win games like this.
   ”(Princeton goalkeeper Steve) Hellstern is the real deal. Henry had a great game. But Hellstern you can tell is a college goalkeeper. Henry is going to be a college lacrosse player.”
   Right now they both play soccer for pretty good high school teams. And if the seeds hold up, they could meet each other again in the MCT final.