April 19, 2006: Sports
Sports Scores Updated weekly
In its first appearance in the NCAA Championships March 17, the Princeton women’s hockey team drew the toughest of matchups: a road game against two-time defending national champion Minnesota. Unshaken by the challenge, the Tigers matched Minnesota for more than half of the game, but uncharacteristic Princeton lapses at the end of the second period and the beginning of the third helped the Golden Gophers pull ahead and win 4–0.
Princeton outshot Minnesota 24 to 16 in the first 38 minutes but misfired on its early opportunities, including a 5-on-3 power play in the opening period. Late in the second period, a collision behind the Tigers’ goal forced a Princeton turnover. Minnesota’s Whitney Graft gathered the puck and passed to defenseman Melanie Gagnon, who broke the scoreless tie with one quick stroke. In the third period, 10 seconds after the opening faceoff, Graft scored a shorthanded goal, giving the Gophers a 2–0 cushion. Minnesota added two more goals, including one on a power play, midway through the third.
For Princeton, two defensive hiccups negated nearly two periods of solid play. “All year, that sort of crisis scenario didn’t happen to us,” said head coach Jeff Kampersal ’92. “We kept our composure all year.”
Despite the loss, Kampersal was happy to see his team skating stride for stride with one of college hockey’s elite programs. This year’s seniors “really got it,” he said, helping the Tigers exceed expectations and winning a record 77 games in their four seasons. In the preseason, ECAC Hockey League coaches picked Princeton to finish seventh. At season’s end, the team was second in the standings, with an Ivy League title in hand.
For returning players, Kampersal hopes that this year’s postseason appearance will provide motivation next year. “It will give them a little sniff of what’s out there,” he said, “and what it’s like to play hockey in March.”
Princeton’s women’s lacrosse team opened the season with three losses in its first five games, but the defeats were close ones against top-flight teams: a one-goal loss at No. 3 Johns Hopkins March 4, and two-goal losses against No. 2 Duke March 12 and at No. 4 Georgetown March 22. The Tigers’ March 25 game against No. 7 Virginia provided a chance to prove they were better than their early record indicated. But that opportunity collapsed as the Cavaliers made a 10–0 second-half run to win 16–3, leaving head coach Chris Sailer shaking her head. “Hopefully that’s as bad as it’s going to get,” she said afterward.
The Tigers stayed close in the first half against Virginia, closing a 5–1 deficit to 5–3 and controlling the ensuing draw for a chance to cut the gap to one goal late in the half. But a Princeton turnover near the goal turned into a breakaway in the opposite direction, and Virginia increased its lead to 6–3 before halftime. With three more goals in the first eight minutes of the second half, the Cavaliers put the game out of reach.
The loss was the low point of Princeton’s opening month, but the young Tigers also experienced highs in convincing wins at Loyola March 8 and Penn State March 18. Kathleen Miller ’07 attracted attention from opposing defenses but managed to score nine goals and assist on eight others in the first six games. Kristin Schwab ’09, who injured her right knee against Virginia, found the net on 13 of her first 15 shots. But Princeton struggled to find consistency on defense, despite an experienced back line.
Sailer’s teams have not had a losing season since 1987, her first year at Princeton, and the Tigers have come back from difficult starts before. Princeton’s 2003 team opened 1–3 before winning 15 of its last 16 en route to an NCAA title. But that team was a defending national champion. This year, Princeton starts just two seniors, and freshmen scored 25 of the team’s first 57 goals.
Princeton routed Columbia 16–7 in its Ivy League opener March 29, marking Sailer’s 250th career win, and the Tigers remain among the league’s top teams. An April 22 home game against Dartmouth, the defending Ivy champion, could prove pivotal in the title chase.
After a 9–5 loss to No. 9 Hofstra March 18, MEN’S LACROSSE rebounded with wins against Butler March 24 and Binghamton March 26. The Tigers’ defense allowed six goals combined in the two wins. Scott Sowanick ’07 tallied four goals and four assists. The Butler game marked head coach Bill Tierney’s 200th win at Princeton.
WOMEN’S FENCING senior Jacqueline Leahy placed second in the foil at the NCAA Championships in Houston March 17, and teammate Erin McGarry ’07 placed 10th in the epee, joining Leahy on the All-American team. Ben Solomon ’06 also earned All-America honors, leading the MEN’S FENCING team with a third-place finish in the epee.
In other fencing news, the University announced March 23 that Zoltan Dudas, a former assistant coach at Notre Dame, will succeed Michel Sebastiani as men’s and women’s fencing coach. The Hungarian-born Dudas helped the Fighting Irish win two NCAA team titles and coached Notre Dame’s epee and foil competitors to 29 All-America finishes in five seasons with the program.
Two Princeton athletes earned All-America honors at the NCAA MEN’S SWIMMING AND DIVING Championships March 25. Meir Hasbani ’07 swam to a seventh-place finish in the 200-yard butterfly and Kent DeMond ’07 placed sixth in the platform diving competition, scoring his two best marks of the finals on his last two dives.
Erin Snyder ’06 broke the Princeton SOFTBALL career strikeouts record in a five-inning, 10–0 win over Nevada March 19. Snyder struck out 10 batters in the game, bringing her four-year total to 600. The Tigers posted an 8–5 record in a spring-break trip to California March 17 through March 26.
Eric Walz ’07 pitched seven shutout innings as BASEBALL snapped a seven-game losing streak with a 4–0 win at Navy March 25. But the success was short-lived: The Midshipmen beat the Tigers 3–2 the following day on an RBI double in the bottom of the ninth inning.
WOMEN’S WATER POLO posted a 3–4 record on its spring-break trip to California March 18 through March 25, with the losses coming against top-20 teams Santa Clara, San Jose State, Stanford, and California.
Princeton alumni BILL BRADLEY ’65, GEORGE SHULTZ ’42, and MEG WHITMAN ’77 were chosen for the NCAA’s list of the “100 Most Influential Student-Athletes.” Bradley and Shultz played basketball before their distinguished careers in public service, while Whitman, the president and CEO of eBay, competed in lacrosse and squash. The list, which includes five U.S. presidents as well as sports pioneers like Jackie Robinson and Arthur Ashe, was compiled as part of the NCAA’s centennial celebration. A two-part television program highlighting the student-athletes debuted on ESPN Classic March 13 and will air again on ESPNU April 20 at midnight.
In March, as teams from Penn and Dartmouth prepared to represent the Ivy League in the NCAA championships for men’s and women’s basketball, respectively, Princeton’s student government passed a resolution asking the Ivy presidents to give football teams the same opportunity. The Ivy ban on postseason football dates back to the 1950s.
The 900-word University Student Government resolution addresses some of the academic and scheduling concerns that have been used to justify the ban. In 2005, the NCAA Division I-AA football playoffs covered roughly the same time frame as the NCAA men’s soccer and women’s volleyball playoffs, two tournaments in which Ivy champions participate.
President Tilghman told The Daily Princetonian that the ban preserves traditional Ivy rivalries by making a league title the ultimate prize.