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Sterling squeaks past Tigers

Princeton's Garrett Duffin battles for the ball Tuesday in Sterling. The Golden Warriors won 1-0.
Princeton's Garrett Duffin battles for the ball Tuesday in Sterling. The Golden Warriors won 1-0.

STERLING – Princeton goalkeeper Isaac Salazar spent most of Tuesday’s game stonewalling Sterling.

When he finally showed a crack, the Golden Warriors’ Alejandro Mora-Marquez was ready to pounce.

The freshman forward drove home the only goal of the game on a breakaway attempt, lifting Sterling to a 1-0 victory on Sterling Chevrolet Field at Roscoe Eades Stadium.

Salazar turned away 16 of Sterling’s 17 shots, many of them in spectacular fashion, but he wasn’t able to get his mitts on the one unleashed by Mora-Marquez with just under 19 minutes to go in the second half.

The game-winning sequence was started by the Warriors’ Jose Uresti, who dumped a pass up the right sideline, behind the Princeton defense, but not within reach of Salazar. Mora-Marquez made sure that he did not venture offsides on the play.

“Coach Gabriel Ocampo told me, ‘Hold the player, hold the defender so you stick with him and you know you’re not offsides,’” Mora-Marquez said. “I held his shoulders, so I knew I wasn’t offsides.”

After beating his man to the ball, Mora-Marquez had to decide what to do with it. He decided to go the far post, and got just enough foot on the ball to slip it past a diving Salazar.

“I needed to focus on what corner I wanted to choose,” Mora-Marquez said, “because most of the plays we had were straight to goalie. We needed to start choosing corners. Our coach was getting mad, so we had to.”

Salazar was still pleased with his and his teammates’ effort.

“I almost had the one that went in, but that’s OK,” Salazar said. “We played a good game. We almost had it a couple of times. We played well overall.”

Sterling (3-1) outshot Princeton 17-2, including 7-0 in the second half. Nifty passes by Mora-Marquez in the first half and Tony Diaz in the second resulted in some point-blank chances that were not converted, something that is a point of concern for head coach Brian Cebula.

“We did a great job of holding the ball, possessing the ball, moving the ball around and creating opportunities for ourselves,” Cebula said, “but we lacked in the finishing department. If you look at the score alone, it doesn’t look like we dominated the game.

“It’s something we need to get better at because in other games, we may not get that many opportunities.”

Sterling goalie Jared Fernandez had a quiet night in goal, with just two saves. The bulk of the action was on the Princeton end of the field, and ball possession is something the Tigers (2-4) will have to improve on in the future, noted head coach David Gray.

“Our biggest challenge tonight, and why they got so many shots, is we were giving the ball away out of the back,” Gray said. “We had trouble winning our own goal kicks, which gave them possession right away, and they were right in front of us.”

• Notes: Sterling won the F/S game 3-1 with Brett Schenk scoring unassisted for PHS.... Next game for the Tigers is at 6 p.m. Thursday at home vs. Rock Island Alleman.

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