Princeton punches ticket to state final at Kean
GLASSBORO » The Princeton High boys soccer team was expecting this — which, in the end, was all that mattered.
Still relatively new to Group IV, the Little Tigers brought their brand of soccer to Rowan University Tuesday night and walked away with a trip to Sunday’s state final at Kean University after a 1-0 victory over Washington Township.
Call it possession or call it keep away, either way, it frustrated the powerful Minutemen, who won Group IV titles in 2014 and 2015.
Back then, Princeton was finishing up in Group III and climbing to Group IV status. Most of this year’s team were freshmen the first season at that level.
So when they advanced Tuesday because of a junior making his first state semifinal appearance, it was even more surprising and rewarding for the Little Tigers (17-5-1).
Because of Atticus Lynch’s rebound goal with 27:34 left in the second half and a relentless defense, head coach Wayne Sutcliffe’s squad will get to play last night’s North Jersey Group IV winner between Bridgewater-Raritan and Kearny in Sunday’s 3 p.m. state final at Kean.
“They bring me in for energy,” Lynch said. “They start with energy, and I just want to keep it going when I’m in there.”
Lynch did just that when he pressed into the attack along with freshman Nick Petruso on one of Princeton’s limited drives in the game.
Off a free kick, Petruso kept a ball alive, only to see his shot get deflected. As luck would have it, the ball popped right to Lynch, who kicked it past Minutemen goalkeeper Mike Pagano.
“When the ball came across, Nick took a great crack at it, but it hit someone and fell right at my feet,” Lynch said. “Scoring a goal in a game of this magnitude, it’s everything to me.”
It meant just as much to his older teammates, who did the grunt work defensively down the stretch.
Senior goalkeeper Patrick Jacobs, who, like Pagano, had only faced three shots in the first 66 minutes of the game, faced four more and three corner kicks in the final 14 minutes to keep Washington Township’s hopes alive.
“It was a little nervewracking at the end,” Jacobs said after making seven saves to help his team which was outshot, 7-4. “After the first half, we just wanted to keep playing our game. I don’t think anyone expected (Lynch’s) goal.”
But when the Minutemen and 6-foot-5 junior Will McCusker pressed forward at the end, the Little Tigers went back to their possession game to prolong the home team, which is about 15 minutes from Rowan’s campus.
Jacobs fielded Sean Zemlak’s 20-yard blast off a free kick on a short hop with 8:15 to go. Chad Yates’ endline shot, which Jacobs jumped on with 1:30 left, was the Minutemen’s last gasp before the Little Tigers celebrated a win which only they may have been expecting.
Princeton (17-5-1) 01 — WashingtonTwp.(21-2-1) 0 0 — 1 0
4 (P), 7 (WT).
PJacobs 7 (P), Pagano 3 (WT).
The Princeton boys soccer team will be playing in Sunday’s Group IV state final at Kean University.