March 21, 2007: Sports
Sports Scores Updated weekly
As the undefeated Princeton women’s squash team waited for its Feb. 17 semifinal match at the Howe Cup tournament, the sport’s national collegiate championship, the players sat in the bleachers with head coach Gail Ramsay and watched as No. 2 Penn was upset by Harvard in the first semifinal, offering vivid proof that a high ranking does not guarantee success. “It plants that little seed,” Ramsay said, recalling the prematch moments. “You can’t really pay too much attention to that, even though [the players] couldn’t take their eyes off it.”
If the threat of a second upset did creep into the minds of the Princeton players, it never showed on the court. Led by three-game wins from Amanda Siebert ’10, Casey Riley ’08, Ali Pearson ’07, and Kaitlin Sennatt ’10, the Tigers swept the first seven matches in a 7-2 victory over host Yale, the three-time defending national champion, and moved on to the tournament final.
The following afternoon, the Tigers dominated the lower portion of the nine-player ladder and got a key victory from No. 2 player Neha Kumar ’10 to beat Harvard, 6–3, earning the right to inscribe “Princeton University” on the Howe Cup for the first time since 1999.
“They played good, aggressive squash, and they were thinking all the time,” Ramsay said of her team’s performance against Harvard. “I was really impressed with their strength and determination.”
Determination was a calling card for Princeton. No. 8 player Carly Grabowski ’08 was sidelined by illness in the Howe Cup semifinal round, but she came out strong in her return against Harvard’s Christine Neo and won 9–6, 9–3, 9–2. Riley, the No. 6 player, capped a long road back from knee reconstruction with an 11–0 record this season. And Pearson, who endured nagging injuries and lonely afternoons in the training room during each of her four years, was a perfect 8–0 in the No. 5 spot, playing through an ankle sprain on the final weekend.
With four seniors (No. 1 player Claire Rein-Weston, No. 4 Gen Lessard, No. 7 Marilla Hiltz, and Pearson) providing experience and leadership, and three freshmen (Kumar, Siebert, and Sennatt) adding new talent to an already remarkable lineup, Ramsay saw great potential at the start of the season. But even undefeated teams have setbacks, from the minor worries of cold and flu season to more significant changes, like players leaving the program. “When things
didn’t go our way, we just absorbed it, figured out how we could make it better, and moved on,” Ramsay said.
The team’s finest week came in late January and early February when Princeton, then ranked fifth, beat three of the nation’s top four teams — Trinity, Penn, and Yale — in a six-day span. “The turning point was when we beat Penn,” said Rein-Weston, one of three team captains. “After that point, we knew we could [win the national championship] this year.”
Princeton’s most reliable strength was in the No. 5 through No. 9 positions, where the Tigers were virtually unbeatable (53–2). At the top of the lineup, Rein-Weston battled the nation’s best and earned a nomination for the Betty Richey Award, a national honor that recognizes excellent play, leadership, and sportsmanship. Kumar, Rein-Weston’s likely successor at the No. 1 spot, won the Constable Invitational in November and only lost once in the team season. Ramsay called the freshman a “tactical wizard” who “just knows how to win.”
The latter could be said of the coach as well. As a player at Penn State, she won the national individual title in each of her four seasons (the trophy was later renamed the Gail Ramsay Cup), and in her first five years as Princeton’s coach, her teams won two national titles (in 1998 and 1999). But in the last seven seasons, the Tigers were shut out in the chase for the Ivy League and Howe Cup championships.
“It felt like a really long time,” Ramsay said. “The league got tougher — there’s more parity and more depth in junior squash. ... It’s quite an honor to be able to put together a group of women to win the national title. [Squash] is very competitive. Small, but very competitive.”
Early in the third period of the men’s hockey team’s regular-season finale against St. Lawrence Feb. 24, right wing Kevin Westgarth ’07 fed a pass to Cam MacIntyre ’10, who ripped a shot through the legs of the Saints’ goalie to put Princeton ahead of the ECAC Hockey League’s top team, 2-1. MacIntyre skated slowly toward the boards and bumped his shoulder against the glass, quietly acknowledging the cheers from a standing-room-only Baker Rink crowd.
Sixteen minutes and two more Princeton goals later, MacIntyre and the Tigers pulled out the stops on their celebration, crowding around goalie B.J. Sklapsky ’07 at the final buzzer. Sklapsky made 20 saves in the 4-1 victory, and with the win, Princeton completed a remarkable weekend in which it beat the league’s top two teams (St. Lawrence and Clarkson), clinched home ice for the first round of the league playoffs, improved to 13-13-3, and confirmed what head coach Guy Gadowsky had believed all season: that the Tigers can compete with any team.
“These are the rewards for a lot of hard work,” Gadowsky said, “not only this year but for at least the three years that I’ve been here.”
Gadowsky’s teams have improved each year since he came to Princeton before the 2004-05 season, thanks to the maturation of top scorers like Westgarth, Darroll Powe ’07, and Grant Goeckner-Zoeller ’07 and the infusion of talented young players like MacIntyre and Lee Jubinville ’09. With four wins in their last five games, the Tigers entered the playoffs playing their best hockey, Gadowsky said. Results from their first-round series against Brown were not available for this issue of PAW.
When this year’s seniors entered the program, Princeton was coming off a 3-26-2 season with a 2-18-2 record in the ECAC. In 2006-07, the Tigers beat or tied nine of their 11 league peers at least once.
“Certainly, it would have been hard to see this moment when we got here on campus, following a three-win year,” Goeckner-Zoeller said after the St. Lawrence game. “It feels like we’ve made a lot of positive steps, both as a class and as a team. It’s nice to leave the program at a much higher place than when we came in.”
WOMEN’S SWIMMING held off a late charge by Harvard to win the Ivy League Championships Feb. 15–17. Alicia Aemisegger ’10, right, broke meet records in three individual events, including the 500-yard freestyle and 200-yard breaststroke marks held by Columbia grad and Olympic gold medalist Cristina Teuscher, to earn Swimmer of the Meet honors. Katie Giarra ’09 was named Diver of the Meet after winning the 1-meter and 3-meter events.
With a first-place finish at the Eastern Intercollegiate Swimming League Championships Feb. 22–24, MEN’S SWIMMING captured its second straight Ivy League title. Doug Lennox ’09 was Princeton’s only event winner (100-yard butterfly), but the Tigers managed to build a wide margin of victory by placing several swimmers in the final heats.
MEN’S SQUASH beat Harvard, 5–4, Feb. 24 to advance to the final match of the College Squash Association national championships. In the title match Feb. 25, the Tigers fell 9–0 to Trinity, which won the tournament for the ninth consecutive year.
Strong rebounding and scoring by Meagan Cowher ’08 and Casey Lockwood ’07 led WOMEN’S BASKETBALL over Dartmouth, 61–56, Feb. 23, but one night later, the Tigers were no match for first-place Harvard, falling 66–51 to the Crimson. MEN’S BASKETBALL lost back-to-back games at Dartmouth Feb. 23 and Harvard Feb. 24, dropping to 2–9 in Ivy League play.
At the Ivy League Heptagonal Indoor Championships Feb. 24 and 25, Andrew Park ’08 broke a meet record in the pole vault, David Nightingale ’07 won two distance-running events, and MEN’S TRACK edged Cornell for the team championship. WOMEN’S TRACK finished fourth at the Heps, with strong showings from its distance runners.
WOMEN’S WATER POLO beat Indiana and Marist but lost to Michigan and Hartwick at the Maryland Invitational Feb. 17 and 18. Elyse Colgan ’07 scored a team-high 20 goals in Princeton’s first eight games, and freshman Helen Meigs contributed 16 assists.
Colgate eliminated WOMEN’S HOCKEY from the ECAC Hockey League playoffs Feb. 24, beating the Tigers for the second straight time in a best-of-three quarterfinal series.
Tommy Davis ’09 scored two goals and assisted on five others as
MEN’S LACROSSE routed Canisius, 18–7, in its season
opener Feb. 24.