Prince­ton punches ticket to state fi­nal at Kean

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - SPORTS - By Red Birch rbirch@tren­to­nian.com @Tren­to­ni­anRed on Twit­ter

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

Lynch (P).

None.

4 (P), 7 (WT).

PJa­cobs 7 (P), Pagano 3 (WT).

GREGG SLABODA — TREN­TO­NIAN FILE PHOTO

The Prince­ton boys soc­cer team will be play­ing in Sun­day’s Group IV state fi­nal at Kean Univer­sity.

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