By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Persistence paid off for the Princeton boys soccer team on Tuesday evening.
The Tigers broke out of their slump after a scoreless first half to earn a 3-0 conference win over Riverside High School at Everette K. Bailey Field.
Princeton (4-7-2) had not won since Sept. 12, enduring an 0-3-1 stretch. The home team out-shot Riverside (2-7-1) by a margin of 14 to 3 in the first half, but neither side found the net.
Senior co-captain Will Hickman scored a pair of goals from short range in the 55th minute and the 76th minute. His second goal was followed about 80 seconds later by the final tally of the match, from sophomore Colton Fix.
“We knew, if we keep shooting and keep pressing, it was going to fall – and it did in the second half,” Hickman said.
Princeton head coach Steve Bailey said, “We get more shots on goal, but can’t finish. The second half, they finally started bringing it more to the wing, (then) getting it more to the middle.”
“You’ve just got to get in closer, and we just haven’t been doing that until tonight.”
A newcomer to varsity, sophomore Coltin Walls, provided assists on all three goals for Princeton.
Walls was added when Fix was injured, Hickman said. He said about Walls, “His fire in a striker position, rushing defenders, just added a new element to our offense. He’s helped us greatly.”
Fix was relieved to be well enough to play – and to bring his goal-scoring ability back to the Tigers.
“I just came back from an injury … two games ago,” Fix said. “It’s hard to get back into the groove in two games, but now that I got the goal under my belt, I think I’ll be fine.”
It was not a textbook play that led to the score. Walls played the ball toward the goal, where Fix and teammate Aaron McCabe were waiting.
Fix said, “We both lost it in the lights (since) the ball was so high. ... Nobody was around me, so I waited for the ball to come down and headed it into the goal. So losing it in the lights was actually good.”
On defense, Princeton’s No. 1 task was keeping up with No. 7, Riverside striker Cameron Norris.
Bailey said, “They had the second-leading scorer in the conference (Norris) out there tonight. … We shut him down. That was our intent, to make sure Norris was marked up, and if somebody else scored, they scored.”
It helped that co-captain Luke Lilly was in front of the net as Princeton goalkeeper, Hickman said. “He’s made many excellent saves this year,” Hickman said. “He’s been like a rock back there, helping us out.”
Princeton amassed 25 shots, 10 on goal, while the visiting Warriors had eight shots, three of which were on frame until Lilly scooped them up. Princeton led in corner kicks, four to one.
With new wind in their sails, the Tigers travel to play at Greenbrier East on Thursday.
Bailey said, “That’s a big sectional game, and pretty much a must-win thing if you want to get good seeding in the sectional. But we go up there … and it’s always tough on the road.”
Hickman said, “Just to come out and get a win tonight will give us a boost and some confidence going into more of our sectional games – and homefield advantage, hopefully.”
Fix said, “It’s always hard to play at Greenbrier East. They always play us good, but if we play our best … we should win.”
— Contact Tom Bone at email@example.com