Boys soccer Head Coach Wayne Sutcliffe approached the new 2017 season with a plan.
And halfway through the season, he threw it out.
“We tried a tactical formation we hadn’t used, a 3-5-,” Sutcliffe said. “It worked fine, but we just think moving to a 4-5-1 is more suited to meet the demands we are going to face.”
Despite the foiled plan, the team holds a 10–3–1 regular season record and is placed first in the Colonial Valley Conference. The squad approaches the Mercer County Tournament as the third seed.
A 3-5-2 formation places three defenders in the back of the field, with five midfielders and two forwards, and is a more aggressive formation compared to the four defenders and one lone forward in the 4-5-1 setup.
“Our thinking is two things: we can help stabilize our situation defensively, to be more capable of [preventing] goals. And on the other end, the outside [midfielders] don’t have to do as much defensive work. They have more freedom to go forward.”
Two members of that back four are new faces in the starting lineup. Jasper Scott ’18 has been promoted to a starter since last year, and Thomas Reid ’19 has moved up from the JV team.
“I’ve been playing with [Scott] since freshman year,” forward Noam Davidov ’18 said. “Physically, he’s become much stronger, much faster, and much more fearless going into challenges with other players. [Reid’s] development has been the same. They’re both very big guys, so when they’re aggressive and want to challenge opponents, they usually come out winning.”
This defense has proved effective in the team’s last two inter-conference games, with a 3–1 win against Hightstown High School and a 2–0 shutout against Trenton High School. However, recent out-of-conference games have constituted two of the team’s losses.
A game against Allentown High School showed the team’s resilience and capabilities when they were down 2–0 going into the second half.
“With around 16 minutes left [in the game], Sebastian Ratzan broke his leg,” Co-Captain and goalie Patrick Jacobs ’18 said. “Immediately after that, in the next five minutes, we scored three goals. We were all shocked that that happened, [since] we lost one of our best players, and I think we were also trying to win that game for him.”
Although the team won that matchup 3–2, a 2–1 loss to 16th in the county Ewing High School showed that the team is not invincible, and still needs to bring their best to every game.
“The bus ride back was really quiet [from that game.] It was a big shock for us, [as] we weren’t expected to lose that game,” Jacobs said. “We got a little complacent going into that game, because they were the [weakest] team we were going to play all year. I think that just shows us how anyone can beat us on any given day.”
Therefore, as the team goes into playoffs, Sutcliffe emphasizes the mindset the team needs and the elements that need to happen in order for the team to perform at their best.
“The most important thing is for those guys to show up and have that match mentality. Against Hightstown, they definitely had that mentality, during the day, during the warmup, into the game.”
After defeating Nottingham High School 4–0 and Allentown High School 2–1 in the Mercer County Tournament, the team faces off against Pennington High School on Tuesday for a trip to the finals, which will have been played on Wednesday.