Sports: June 10, 1998

Sports (overview)

Women's lax bows out in Virginia

On May 9 in Charlottesville, Virginia, the women's lacrosse team was in a familiar position. Its opponents had jumped out to an early lead, and at 4-1, head coach Chris Sailer had replaced goalkeeper Laura Field '00 with netminder Amber Mettler '99 for the second time in as many games. So far, this quarterfinal match-up in the NCAA tournament against the Cavaliers was duplicating the Tigers' overtime 12-11 win against the Georgetown Hoyas in the first round a few days earlier. But though the number- eight Tigers overcame the early deficit to conquer the number-nine Hoyas, they were about to realize the difference in playing the top-ranked team in the nation, a difference ultimately that spelled defeat, 8-7.

Against Georgetown, Princeton had stormed back, scoring five consecutive goals following halftime to take the lead. But this time, the Cavaliers were the ones who began a strong second half, scoring twice to regain momentum. The Tigers were forced to play catch-up, but goals from attack Melissa Cully '98 and midfielder Julie Shaner '01 closed the gap. Virginia's Kara Ariza followed with a score of her own, but Princeton ran out of time before it could respond.

Midfielder Brent McCallister '98, assessing the situation, said, "The thing that separates us from the top teams is our ability to come through in the final seconds. And the first 10 minutes of the Virginia game killed us. We came out flat. I think we outplayed them the majority of the game, but they got the last goal when time ran out." In the first-round match, the Tigers had pulled even with Georgetown and gotten the last goal; however, the tying effort came from a surprising source. Though scoreless in her 65 minutes of total playing time this season, Ani Mason '00 replaced Jen Alexander '99 (who had injured her knee in the first half) and tallied two goals and one assist to keep Princeton in the game. Midfielder Cristi Samaras '99 didn't fail to capitalize on the opportunity.

With one minute, three seconds remaining in overtime, Samaras fired in her fifth goal of the game to secure the win and add another highlight to her already impressive college career. Samaras's 56 goals and 85 total points are single-season university records. Against Virginia, she tallied two goals.

Virginia advanced to meet Dartmouth in the Final Four and defeated the Big Green, 10-7, but its luck ran out in the final, when it fell to the Maryland Terps, 11-5.

During the regular season, on April 25, Princeton fell to Dartmouth, 10-9 in overtime, losing a chance at the Ivy League title. Despite falling short of some of its season goals, the Tigers' improvement is indisputable as evidenced by the team's having repositioned itself among the nation's elite after failing last year to qualify for the NCAA tournament.

"I think we came very far over the season," cocaptain McCallister said. "We did a lot to bring the program back and really set the stage for next year."

-- Sarah Slonaker '98

Dismal doubleheader ends baseball year
Gehrig Division-winning Tigers lose to Crimson twice at Yale Field

As though the rain delays piled on rain delays weren't enough; as though the transfer of the Ivy League championship baseball series from the comfortable confines of Clarke Field to uninspiring Yale Stadium weren't piling insult upon injury, the Tiger nine was forced to meet Harvard for the League title on Dean's Day -- May 12. If the academically stressed Princeton players felt that circumstance was conspiring against them, well, maybe it was.

Gehrig division champion Princeton advanced to the Ivy title series for the third year in a row, this time under rookie head coach Scott Bradley, and lost to Harvard for the second year in a row. Harvard won 13-6 and 13-4 in the first two games of a best-of-three series, to advance to an NCAA play-in against MAAC champion LeMoyne.

"Harvard is a good, tough, tournament-tested team, and I think they just made all the plays," said Bradley, who ends his inaugural season with a 25-14 overall record. "I just wish that we could have played at home on the weekend that we were supposed to. I'm not sure that would have made a big difference, the way Harvard played, but we would have had 1,500 or 2,000 people there, and that would have been very special."

There was very little that was special about what Princeton got from its defense in the series. Starters Joe Machado '98 and Jason Quintana '00 had what Bradley said were "probably their worst outings of the year, possibly caused by the long layoff." In the field, Princeton wasn't too sharp either, committing six errors over the two games.

In the opener, Harvard came out with three runs in the first inning. Princeton would match that in the top of the third, but the Crimson got a fourth run off Machado in the bottom of the frame, and then chased out the Princeton starter after scoring three runs on only one out in what would become a five-run fourth.

Mike Hazen '98 and Justin Griffin '98 provided some punch in the 12-hit Tiger attack. Hazen, the senior captain, was 3-for-4 with a double and two runs scored. Justin Griffin was 2-for-5 with two doubles, a run scored, and one RBI. Jason Koonin '99 was 2-for-3 with a home run, two runs scored, and one RBI.

In the second game, Quintana held the Crimson to two runs over three innings before a fourth inning meltdown saw Harvard take an 8-1 lead. Princeton never scored more than one run in a single inning, while the Crimson racked up 13 runs on 16 hits and five Princeton errors. Princeton senior Justin Griffin closed out his career with his fifth home run of the year.

The optimist may have seen a glimmer of hope in that final game: of Princeton's eight hits, six came from a trio of talented freshmen. Max Krance improved his team-leading batting average to .411 in a 2-for-4 performance with two runs scored. Casey Hildreth and Andrew Hanson had two hits and an RBI each.

Bradley certainly sees the possibility of things better than a Gehrig Division championship in the Tigers' future. "I think it was a very good year," he said, "not a great year, but a good year."

-- Rob Garver

Men's volleyball says Aloha

Getting waxed, 15-1, 15-6, 15-4, on national TV is never fun, but for the men's volleyball team -- ranked 12th -- losing to then-No. 1 Pepperdine in Princeton's first-ever NCAA Final Four meant a lot.

After redeeming a shaky season with a spectacular run through the eastern tournament, the Tigers (16-9 overall) flew to Honolulu, where they enjoyed the splendors of the South Pacific and the glory of being the first Ivy League team in 22 years to face the scholarship players, hype, and big guns of volleyball's best.

But the Tigers' shanked passes and hitting errors gave the Waves' all-America lineup no competition. Opposite Scott Birdwell '98 led the match with 14 kills, and Derek Devens '98 hit an astounding .800, but Princeton needed a team effort to pull off a miracle. Nevertheless, the Tigers were proud to extend their season beyond their wildest dreams.

-- Josh Stephens '97

For coach Cindy Cohen, "There's no crying in softball"

Ah, spring, verdant queen of seasons, whose true harbingers are not crocuses, or tulips, or robins on the wing, but the crack of aluminum on faux horsehide. And here, on a March day, is Cindy Cohen, among the preeminent mentors of the game, softball branch, gathering her Tigers as they ready for early-season batting practice on 1895 Field. "Tell you what, ladies," she says, "I think I'm going to hold a symposium on what color nail polish is acceptable on game days."

That's Cohen, 41, a product of the tough-and-tussle of northeast Philadelphia, the wiseacre women's coach who rallies her troops with pointed humor. But the smile disappears quickly at the sight of a mistake.

"Three! Three! Three!" she yells at an outfielder who has unleashed an errant throw. "Hey, you know where third base is, right?" Then she turns to me and offers her philosophy for dealing with the crème de la Ivy League: "I tell them, 'You may know more chemistry or Kafka than I do, but I know more about softball.' "

That she does. In 16 seasons as head coach of the Tigers, Cohen has mounted an imposing record: 12 Ivy League championships and a 513-225 won-lost record (with three ties). Her scholar-athletes held their own against the state university powerhouses in the Women's College World Series in 1995 and 1996. Equally impressive are the garlands gained by individual players, who have tended to worship her, even when she has rankled the living hell out of them: 81 first-team, all-Ivy picks, 48 regional All-Americas, 12 national Academic All-Americas, and a Rhodes scholar.

But there's a stain on Cohen's résumé. This year, despite a 30-16 record, her talented Tigers (for the second year in a row) fell short of winning the Ivy title. For Cohen's Tigers to lose a softball title is the equivalent of those rare, dispiriting years when Pete Carril's men's basketball teams lost an Ivy League championship. Cohen draws comparisons to Carril, her friend and guide until he left Princeton in 1996 after a 29-year reign. Like Carril, Cohen is a small package of nitroglycerin, loaded with raspy charm and wielding a wicked tongue. Sitting in her office in Jadwin Gym, Cohen is an essay in tightness: tightly hunched shoulders, tightly bunched black curls capping a tightly focused mind. "I used to go to Pete all the time," she recalls, "with recruiting problems, player problems, what have you. He'd sit me down and say, 'Doll, let me tell you . . .' "

The best college coaches are always savvy personal counselors. That dictum holds particularly true in the Ivy League, with its expectations of high achievement in the classroom and on the field. "If you're not concerned with the academic progress of your players," Cohen says flatly, "you don't belong at Princeton." And she's dealing with female athletes -- a different game altogether, she says. "I tell my players that I may care about them from the bottom of my heart off the field, but that on the field my job is to make them better athletes. Sometimes they take it personally.

"That's why I've sometimes wished I was coaching guys. I understand it, but I also stress mental toughness. I tell them, 'There's no crying in softball unless there's blood or a broken bone.' "

The players are aware of her personal stance: I won't treat you all the same, but I will treat you all fairly. As Alyssa Smith '98 puts it, "She's very shrewd about knowing who needs to be yelled at and who won't respond well to it." One player impossible to yell at is Pam Reeves, a swift, sweet-natured junior outfielder sidelined most of last year with back problems. "Coach was always honest with me," Reeves says, "and very sympathetic. She kept in touch with me and even went to my trainer to see how I was doing."

Cohen grew up tough, and she ascribes that toughness to her mother, Mildred. "She always supported me, Cohen says, "even if playing ball in the street with the guys wasn't her picture-book goal for me." Cohen's parents were divorced when she was a child, but she stayed close to her father, Joseph. "We used to go out to Connie Mack Stadium together, and we watched Jim Bunning pitch his perfect game on Father's Day."

She captained her high-school tennis and basketball teams and played softball at summer camp. Then she went to Temple University on, of all things, a bowling scholarship. But she wound up playing a mean third base for the Owls. Graduating in 1978, she took a coaching assistantship at Trenton State (now the College of New Jersey) and got a master's in health education while helping guide the Lions to a national ranking in Division III.

In 1982, she recalls, "I threw my hat into the ring at Princeton," and won jobs as head softball coach and assistant women's basketball coach. She dropped the latter in 1986 as the softball program burgeoned into one of the nation's finest. Now, in addition to her duties on the field and on the road, she directs the Princeton Softball Camp and is a member of the Division I Women's Softball Committee.

Like many moving into their 40s, her most pressing personal concern has become looking after her parents. "My dad died in the spring of 1992. I told him, 'Don't die in the middle of the season.' But he did. We had the funeral, then I went to Illinois, where we placed second in the National Invitational Tournament. You do what you have to," she says softly, "and wear sunglasses a lot."

Last year, her mother was diagnosed with cancer. Cohen, who lives in Newtown, Pennsylvania, hopes her mother will move in with her. "I'm not sure she wants to. She said, 'I don't even like to telephone you on game days, much less be around you -- unless I know Princeton has won.' My mom's cancer put perspective on things for me last season. It was a tough year. I hated losing, and I still hate to lose. But you realize it's only a game."

At the moment, it's time to get ready for the upcoming Ivy season. So here's Cohen back at home plate, whacking fungoes to the outfield in the cold, waning sunlight of early spring. "Way to get a ball, Emma Owings! Nice throw, Jen McCoy!" she shouts. But soon, she must consign the bat to an assistant and trot over to the aluminum bleachers, where a hot high school prospect and about half of her family on both sides are waiting.

"Um, what qualities are you looking for in a recruit?" asks the prospect's mother.

Cohen smiles tightly. "Good grades," she replies. "No point in falling in love with someone you can't have."

-- Mark Goodman

This article is adapted from one that appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer magazine on March 29.

No horsing around for equestrian team

Hey! hay! The equestrian club finished a stellar year, winning the team trophy at the All-Ivy Championship at Dartmouth in April. During the season, the equestrians galloped off with a slew of ribbons, as shown above. Five riders went to the regional championship, three to the zone championship, and one, Kira Epstein '98, to the nationals.

New kids in the boathouse
Women's lightweight crew makes strong debut

Perhaps it wasn't foreordained that in the first year of its existence, women's lightweight crew would go into nationals at the end of May ranked number one, but it wasn't a huge surprise.

"Because of the success of Princeton's crew program, expectations were high that the lightweight women would do well," says head coach Heather Smith, who joined the coaching staff last summer. Once situated in the crew's tower office at Dillon Gym, Smith set about building a team with current students, some making the move from the open division and many others joining who had no experience in a boat at all.

"My assistant coach, Andrea Theis, took on the novices, and I managed the varsity," explains Smith, who graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1992 and who most recently worked at Columbia University as a novice coach and physical education instructor.

With only 19 women in the fledgling program to support a varsity eight and a novice eight, each boat requiring eight rowers and a coxswain, it can get tricky if someone can't row. And then there's the weight limit to consider. Lightweights cannot weigh more than 130 pounds on race day. Women in the open division have no restrictions.

"We've gone through some pretty precarious moments this year," admits Smith. "During the winter I was down to seven people for varsity. I pulled up a novice rower. And one of the coxswains from the open division moved to lightweight."

Training for the lightweight crew is not much different from that for the open division. Athletes row on water for two hours, five or six days a week during the fall, and work out in the boathouse during the winter. Winter workouts include ergometer exercises, weight lifting, and rowing in indoor tanks. The only difference in regimen arises because of the need for the athletes to maintain weight.

"Is there a problem with eating disorders? That's the $64,000 question," Smith allows, "especially for a sport with a weight limit. Fortunately on campus, there is an Eating Disorders Team, with psychotherapists, an athletic trainer, and a physician, that works with coaches to help us identify and take care of the athletes."

In off-water training, Smith recommends a lower-intensity workout. "We're trying to keep the weight down. We go for a lower heart rate and longer duration." Smith says there are limits on how much she can ask of students, but many of the women will put in extra time on their own. "It is elective training, and I work out a plan with those women who want to do supplementary work."

Competition for lightweights during the fall are the three-mile head races, involving up to 22 boats. A head race is one in which the crew rows for time; the shells cross the starting line at 10-second intervals. During the spring races, which are 2,000 meters (approximately one and a quarter miles), the crews compete on the water side by side.

Fitting start-up rowers into a well-established powerhouse such as Princeton has been less of a problem than might have been expected. Smith cannot stress often enough how cooperative the other coaches have been.

"Lori Dauphiny, the coach for the open women's crew, helped out a lot, especially in the fall. She and I ran practices together for a couple of weeks," says Smith, who is also quick to praise the men's coaches as well as Dick Prentke '67 and David Covin '91, who have contributed time and money to the program.

Smith, who is engaged to be married this summer, looks forward to the fall. "I need to work on growing my team next year," she says. "We want to add another varsity eight and a novice four. I also need to figure out the team's relationship with the open-weight women. They have such a long history of success and their own traditions. As we grow, we'll develop our own."

-- Lolly O'Brien

Track and field, get set, go!

Princeton's state-of-the-art William M. Weaver '34 Track and Field Stadium was dedicated May 2. The Princeton Invitational, held after the ceremony, included 708 athletes from college and club teams.



(25-13 overall, 13-9 Ivy)

W at Lehigh, 9-7

W/L at Cornell, 8-6/3-5

L/W vs. Cornell, 1-4/4-3

W at Seton Hall, 9-8

Ivy Championships:

L/L vs. Harvard, 6-13/4-13

M. Volleyball

(16-9 overall, 7-1 eiva)

NCAA Semifinals: L vs. Pepperdine, 0-3

W. Lacrosse

(12-4 overall, 6-1 Ivy)

L vs. Maryland, 11-12

W at Brown, 11-8

NCAA 1st Round: W vs. Georgetown, 12-11

NCAA Quarterfinals: L at Virginia 7-8


(30-16 overall, 6-4 Ivy)

W/W vs Rutgers, 2-0/5-0

L/W vs. Maryland, 46 /80

M. Heavyweight crew

(9-1 overall, 4-1 Ivy)

W vs. Brown, 5:31-5:39

M. lightweight crew

(7-0 overall, 4-0 Ivy)

W/W vs. Yale, Harvard,

5:38-5:43-5:46 W. Open crew

(9-1 overall, 61 Ivy)

W/W vs. Georgetown, GW, 6:20-6:26-6:35