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Keeping it in good hands

All-State Insurance has nothing on the Princeton Tiger soccer team when it comes to being in good hands. The Tigers have four good hands on goal.

The Tigers are using the platoon of senior keepers Nolan Piper and Miguel Austin as the last line of defense on the Tiger goal this season. Between them, they have been keeping it in good hands.

The best thing about the twin keepers is there’s no animosity between them and they really want each other to do well. They both say they’re each other’s biggest fans.

“I am really proud of Nolan and Miguel about how they have responded to this,” PHS coach Jason Bird said. “They are both seniors, and I know they both want to be out there the entire time, but they have responded well to their role splitting time with each other. I think if it were two other players it might not work as well as it has with these two young men.

“Interaction between Nolan and Miguel has been great, I don’t know what kind of friendship they have outside soccer, but inside soccer they are each other’s biggest supporter. They warm each other up, they talk about the team we are playing and which players they need to pay attention to.”

Bird especially praises Piper, who had been a three-year starter on goal and recently set the school record for career shutouts, for accepting the platoon. For his part, Piper welcomes it because of what it brings to the team.

“It’s a really daunting task,” he said of being the team’s lone keeper. “Last three years, I’ve had to do it alone. I’m always worried. You’ve got to get up after a big hit. Goalies can’t really take time off for injuries,” he said. “Now that I’ve got Miguel here, a quality goalie, I’m not afraid of going down and accepting the injury.”

“If I go down, he’s there to cover for me,” Austin said. “I don’t have a problem because I know he can do the exact same thing as me, if not better, all the time.”

The two keepers dish out assists when it comes to each other’s play just as quick as they make stops on goals.

“He can get out,” Piper said of his partner in crime. “He’s got some distance on his lateral movements. Miguel’s willing to get hurt. He’s got the bumps and bruises along the way. We both go through that, Miguel more so.”

“He’s really quick,” Austin said of Piper. “He’s probably got the same distance as me and can jump just as far, dive just as far. And his tactical skills are just as good.”

Bird said the team doesn’t miss a beat with either keeper in the net.

“Nolan and Miguel each have different strengths. I think the team doesn’t even think about who is in the box for the game, they know they are both going to do a good job.”

They usually have a rotation with one playing the first half of a game and the other takes the second. The next night they might play it the other way, and in tournaments they might just take turns every other game.

“Sometimes I’m the closer and sometimes he’s the closer. In tight games, maybe you need a change of scenery. It’s good for both of us,” Piper said.

Though they each have their own individual nicknames — Austin is the “Black Mamba” or the “Horned Frog” and Piper is known as the “Wart Hog” or the “Honey Badger” — they don’t have one of those Hollywood pet couple names.

They simply refer to it as “Goalie love.” How about the two-headed monster?

“We can go by it,” Piper said.

With their hands ready for the next enemy shot, the Tiger keepers have an eye toward their team’s venture into postseason play this week in the Rock Island Alleman Regional. First up is DePue at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

“Having been here the past four years and never really get past regional finals, I feel like this team, especially with me and Miguel having the capabilities, we can go even farther,” Piper said.

“This team is good enough, we get along together on the field and they respond to us both in the same way, I think we can go farther,” Austin said.

And both keepers will be there on defense.