This past weekend, men’s soccer (6–6–4 overall, 1–3–3 Ivy League in 2022) had a dynamic shutout against the Rider Broncs (3–8–6, 2–3–5 Metro Atlantic). Playing Friday evening in their second spring season game, the team cashed in on penalty shots and powerful passing to finish the game up with a 3–0 shutout.
Princeton had a testing fall season leading into the spring. After closing out the regular-season calendar this past November with a 3–0 loss on senior day against Penn (13–3–2, 6–1), the team was left hungry for more home wins. Friday night’s match proved to be just that.
“We’ve shown that we’ve made big strides forward since the fall,” junior forward Walker Gillespie wrote to The Daily Princetonian.
In their face-off on Friday, the young players on the team were key to covering the field and compensating for changes in the roster with the seniors graduating.
“The freshman, especially, played extremely well against Rider,” Gillespie wrote. “We have 10 of them, so they are going to be a big part of the success that we hope to have next fall.”
In the first half of playtime, sophomore goalkeeper Khamari Hadaway made a key stop defending the post from a strong Rider corner kick. The Tigers also strategically drew penalties inside the 18-yard box to put scores on the board. Sophomore forward Nico Nee was a big part of this early success.
“[Nico] had a standout performance drawing two penalties and scoring both of them,” Gillespie wrote to the ‘Prince.’ “He is starting to look extremely confident and dangerous after an unfortunate injury that affected his first two seasons.”
The Tigers were up 2–0 at the half, and the second half of the game included more skillful play from the underclassmen. As they do not play in spring games, the graduating seniors showed their support on the sidelines while watching their team dominate on both halves of the field.
“[The team] held a compact shape from front to back,” Gillespie wrote. “It made it really hard for Rider to build out of the back or get anything going offensively, and led to a lot of counterattack opportunities for us.”
The second half held many more scoring opportunities for the Tigers, including an attempt that bounced off the woodwork.
“The midfield in particular was a major highlight of the game Friday,” Gillespie said to the ‘Prince.’ “After losing two of our starting midfielders unexpectedly recently, one to the MLS [Major League Soccer] and one to injury, that was the biggest question coming into the spring, but there were major signs of growth that were highlighted by our play.”
In the last 10 minutes of play, the strong offensive pushes from Princeton finally resulted in another goal when Nee assisted junior forward Ryan Winkler. Nee led the ball up the middle off the field, completing a clean pass to Winkler who scored and closed the game at 3–0.
Including this past Friday, Princeton has had a long history of outplaying Rider, defeating them in every matchup since 2012. Yet, Friday’s spring matchup was an important one for the Tigers.
“Each spring game we have is an opportunity for us to get better,” Gillespie wrote to the ‘Prince.’ “We take these opportunities very seriously so that we can build off of stuff that we’ve been working on in training and hopefully build some momentum going into next fall.”
“We keep getting better and better by the week, and everyone is starting to step up and fill the gaps that were left by players that are no longer available.”
Ava Seigel is a contributor to the Sports section at the ‘Prince.’
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