PRINCETON: PHS girls soccer slips past Knights

By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
Hanna Rush has a knack for being in the right place at the right time.
Three times this season the Princeton High senior has scored a goal. Each time the score came when she knocked home the rebound of a save by the opposing goalie.
The latest of those goals came on Wednesday, when Rush scored after Sasha Ryder’s shot was saved to lift the Princeton girls soccer team to a 1-0 win over West Windsor-Plainsboro North in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament.
“That has happened to me twice before,” said Rush, who scored with 11 minutes left in regulation. “You just have to follow the ball.”
The win lifted the sixth-seeded Little Tigers into the quarterfinals, where they will face third-seeded Allentown. In other MCT girls action on Wednesday, top-seeded Princeton Day School topped Nottingham, 2-0, on goals by Madison McCaw and Brooke Smukler and the shutout goalkeeping of Grace Barbara. Hun fell to Notre Dame, 4-1, as Kara Borden scored the only goal of the game for the Raiders. WW-P South fell to Steinert, 1-0, in overtime.
In MCT boys play, top-seeded Princeton defeated Nottingham, 6-0, as Alex Ratzan scored a pair of goals to pace the offense. The Little Tigers will face eighth-seeded PDS in the quarterfinals after the Panthers slipped past Hightstown, 5-3, behind a pair of goals from CJ Uche. Seventh-seeded WW-P North topped Trenton, 6-1, as Josh Shutak and Vincenzo Pugliese scored two goals apiece. WW-P South topped Hamilton, 7-2, as Basher El Sharef scored three goals and Anthony Amore added two for the Pirates. Hun dropped a 4-1 decision to Notre Dame. M.J. Cobb scored for the Raiders in the loss.
For the Princeton girls, the win over the Knights came in hard-fought fashion. The teams had played 100 scoreless minutes less than two weeks ago and the rematch was just as even before Rush managed to score in the 68th minute.
“It was a rough game last time and we knew that we really wanted to win this time,” Rush said. “It was motivation from everyone and we were all just working super hard. We didn’t want that overtime. We just wanted to put it away.”
Rush had entered the game just minutes before scoring the only goal of the game. She once again found herself in the right position after Ryder’s shot was saved and the rebound came right to the feet of Rush.
“It’s my last season playing soccer so I want to go out with a bang,” she said. “We have 11 seniors and we’re all working really hard. We want to enjoy the end of our season. We didn’t want to have this loss and then just practice up until we start states. We wanted to keep playing.”
Now the Little Tigers, who improved to 9-3-1, get a rematch with Allentown, who they defeated, 3-2, last week.
“The last time we played them was on our Senior Day,” Rush said. “I think we just need to harness all the drive that the seniors had and the motivation we had last time and bring it again.”
The win was the third straight for Princeton since suffering a 2-0 loss to Notre Dame on Oct. 13.
“We have had a couple of ups and downs,” Princeton coach Val Rodriguez said. “The Notre Dame game was a big down for us and the Allentown game was a big up for us. They need to realize that when they play consistently and they play together they are a good team. There are times when we don’t play together and don’t play as a unit. I am hoping that senior mindset is going to carry us through. They have to be hungry. This is it. We’re at one-and-done time.”
Rachel Eberhart made six saves in goal for the Little Tigers, who managed to keep the Knights off the scoreboard for the second straight game.
“They have a good team and they take us off of our game,” Rodriguez said. “I was getting nervous that we were looking at overtime and maybe PKs. We needed to shoot and Sasha got the shot off and Hanna had the follow, which we practice all the time.
“Hanna knows what she has to do when she gets in the game.”
This time she scored and it made all the difference in helping the Little Tigers advance. 