Sports: October 7, 1998
Football wins opener
before 27,800 fans
Princeton Stadium still awaiting first touchdown after inaugural game
In celebrating the opening game at brand-new Princeton Stadium on September 19, the only part that was not perfect was the contest itself, a long and grinding affair that ended with the Cornell squad shut out 6-0. For 47 seconds in the last two minutes, however, the crowd of 27,800 was on the edge of their brand-new aluminum alloy seats, as the Big Red threatened to ruin the day by driving from their own 20 to the Princeton 34. But with less than half a minute to play, cornerback Gerry Wilson '00, the short man in a two-deep zone, read Cornell quarterback Mike Hood perfectly and leapt to pick off the ball on the Princeton 20. He landed in a frenzy of exuberant Tigers, jumping with their fists held high in victory on the flawless green grass of their new home.
During most of the game, however, as both offenses sputtered around midfield, it was Princeton Stadium that provided most of the excitement. The fans loomed above the players on tall, steep, angular grandstands set just yards away from all four sides of the field, and the horseshoe-shaped stands, which surround the stadium to evoke the essence of Palmer, both confined and concentrated the noise and excitement. The result was a stadium not only more intimate than Palmer, but more intense.
The game was also, as promised, a sellout. It had been at least three decades since fans had awaited an opening game in Princeton with this level of expectation and excitement. Before the game the area around the stadium bustled with more tailgates and a much bigger crowd than old Palmer had seen in years. By the time the team took the field, fans had filled the stadium almost to capacity.
The entire scene stood in stark contrast to last year's somber and lengthy season on the road when the Tigers were only able to win two games in the Ivy League -- the worst result in Coach Steve Tosches's 10 seasons. But the fans seemed willing to forgive last year's record as the game began. Much of the energy in the stadium came from the more than 3,000 students, many wearing bright orange T-shirts, who were seated in the grandstand that now closes the south side of the horseshoe. The team, dressed in their new orange-flared retro helmets and black home jerseys with coils of orange striping on the sleeves, and fed by the energy of the crowd, finally burst out of the tunnel shortly before 2 p.m.
The team itself also had a new look, with 11 players starting their first game, including the entire offensive backfield and half of the defensive backs. On this day, however, it was returning kicker Alex Sierk '99 who played the most important role, as he scored the game's only points on 37- and 47-yard field goals. With those two kicks he first tied and then surpassed the career record of Princeton legend Charlie Gogolak '66, who was at the game for a halftime place-kicking contest. Sierk ended the day with 28, four behind record-holder Chris Lutz '91.
The scores came on Princeton's first two drives. For the record, new starting tailback Kyle Brandt '01 returned the opening kickoff in the new stadium to the 24-yard line. He and quarterback John Burnham '99, who played sparingly last year in relief of Harry Nakielny '97, produced points on their first drive. Burnham, who throughout the day showed impressive presence in the pocket under pressure, completed two passes on the drive and gained a first down at the Cornell 46 with a keeper off the left side. Brandt took two handoffs and a pitch for 16 yards, before an incomplete pass forced a kick. Sierk put it through the new orange uprights from 47 yards out -- the first points at Princeton Stadium, time 10:55 in the first quarter.
The defensive line, which had an exceptional day rushing the passer, including three sacks in the first half, held the Big Red to three and out. On Princeton's next possession, starting at its own 21, Burnham uncorked a pass to Ray Canole '99 for 39 yards. Brandt, who would end the day with 119 yards on 26 carries, rushed twice to put the ball on the Cornell 25. The Tigers failed to convert a third down at the 20-yard line, and Sierk kicked his second field goal from 37 yards out, which concluded the scoring. Cornell's only scoring attempt came on its deepest penetration, a long drive to the Princeton 9 that stalled with 12 seconds left in the first half. Perhaps because they were kicking toward a grandstand to the south for the first time ever at Princeton -- not to mention the 3,000 madly waving undergrads just 17 yards behind the goal posts -- the Big Red missed the chip shot.
But despite the victory, and despite the fact that preseason Ivy League favorites Harvard and Brown both lost earlier in the afternoon (Brown falling to supposed Ivy doormat Yale) the Tigers still didn't look like title contenders. Princeton committed 11 penalties, and after the first two series the offense seemed incapable of sustaining drives, managing only 13 first downs. While the front seven of the defense played tough, the secondary was soft in coverage against a suspect Cornell passing attack.
Still, those are questions for the future. As defensive end David Ferrara '00 said after the game, "Today was a celebration of Princeton University, and we put the icing on it."
-- Stephen R. Dujack '76
Fiftysomething Bruce May '70 is a boxer for the ages
||The closest most lawyers ever get to professional boxers is sitting next to them at the defense table. But Bruce May '70, a partner at the Phoenix, Arizona, law firm Streich Lang, doesn't defend professional boxers -- he gets in the ring with them. May started boxing in the winter of 1997, and what began as an experiment grew quickly into an infatuation. "I love the athleticism that's required," he says. "I love the mental challenge of trying to develop a strategy and to adapt to the other boxer while he's trying to beat your brains out."|
May's unusual passion began a year ago when, out of curiosity, he wandered into a gym in a run-down section of Phoenix. The gym's owner, a retired boxer from New Jersey named Joe Diaz, took one look at the lawyer and immediately suckered him into buying a pair of hand wrappings at a grossly inflated price, probably figuring he'd never see the lawyer again. But May did come back, only this time to box, and Diaz became his trainer. Today, after countless months of training, the unlikely pair are what May calls "fast friends."
But when it comes to training, their friendship doesn't keep Diaz from pushing May to his physical limit. While he tries to keep pace with kids half his age, May's training sessions feature intense bursts of strenuous physical activity. He starts with two rounds of chopping wood -- something Diaz learned from the Joe Louis camp. Three minutes on, one minute off, three minutes on, one minute off. Then it's back into the gym for three rounds of shadow boxing, where he hones his technique through relentless, exhausting repetition. Then it's the heavy bag, and the speed bag, and the double-ended bag, and the upper-cut bag. And, of course, there are strength-building exercises such as neck bridges, where May lies on the floor and arches his whole body upward while supporting himself on his heels and his neck.
Exercise physiologists discredited the neck bridge as a training method long ago, but it has maintained a presence among boxers and wrestlers -- sports where your opponent is very likely to do serious violence to your head. "The first time I got slammed in the face by a 250-pound heavyweight, I realized why I had been doing the neck bridges," May says. Instead of snapping like a dry twig, May's neck absorbed the punch and rolled, just the way Diaz had trained it to.
In December of 1997, May stepped into the ring for an exhibition fight against Rod Hernandez, a 44-year-old former professional boxer. May remembers that his strait-laced law partners at Streich Lang were "anything but enthusiastic." He lost the fight on points, but got plenty of support from both the Phoenix newspapers and the crowd. An Arizona Republic reporter noted that some of the cheers coming from the fight fans included advice such as "kick his habeas corpus" and "adjourn him."
Hand injuries suffered in a car accident have kept May out of the ring recently -- a situation he says is definitely temporary. Although incapacitated, he has not lost his appetite for a fight. Spending time in the gym has opened May's eyes to the ways in which unscrupulous promoters take advantage of poor, often uneducated fighters. Today, May is among those leading the battle for stricter regulation of professional boxing in his home state of Arizona.
"The tricks the promoters play to get a few extra bucks out of the fighters are unbelievable," May says. He points out that for many boxers, a $400 purse represents rent and grocery money. Clearly, in or out of the ring, May feels that he is fighting the good fight.
Field hockey looks for title and revenge
Definition of an arch nemesis: You are a Princeton senior on the field hockey team. Your freshman year you sliced through the Ivy league and made it to the NCAA tournament, only to be rudely evicted by North Carolina 6-0. In 1996, your sophomore year, you enjoy a dream season, run all the way to the NCAA finals, only to lose to the Tarheels again -- this time 3-0. And who should you meet last year in the semifinals? Sure enough, North Carolina, who hands you a heartbreaking 4-3 loss. Three years, three crushing, season-ending defeats.
That the scores have been getting closer is no consolation, nor is the fact that in the preseason coaches poll, Princeton, at number three, is ranked one spot above North Carolina. As captain Molly O'Malley '99 says, "Rankings don't mean a whole lot to us." If the team really wants to eclipse the Tarheels, it will have to do it on the field -- possibly on October 31, when the two teams play a regular season game in Princeton.
But the Tigers have plenty of business to take care of first. They opened their season on September 11 against unranked Georgetown, a team coached by former Princeton standout Kim Simons '94. Although the Tigers dominated the game, they were still only ahead by one goal with 10 minutes remaining. "The effort was there,"O'Malley said after the game, "but it took us a while to get into form. We needed to settle into our passing game."
Near the end of the contest, Princeton's play did pick up, and two quick goals in the last eight minutes led the Tigers to a solid 3-0 victory. After the game, Coach Beth Bozman was relieved. "It was a win," she said. "Georgetown did a nice job against us. We'll be better tomorrow." Sure enough, the next day Princeton looked sharper in a 5-1 victory over 20th-ranked Boston University, a game highlighted by Kirsty Hale '99's hat trick.
The schedule this year is tough; starting September 30 against the University of Maryland, the Tigers will play three top-five teams in a month, culminating in the showdown with North Carolina. Even in the relative safety of the Ivy League, which the team has dominated for four years, Bozman sees a host of potential pitfalls. "Every team will rise for us because of our ranking," she says. "We need to learn how to put those teams away."
The Tigers have already suffered some bad luck. The day before the Georgetown game, Gia Fruscione '00, last year's starting goalkeeper and a former Ivy League rookie of the year, broke her ankle in practice and was lost for the season. Fortunately, Princeton has an experienced replacement in Meg DeJong '99, who played well over the weekend.
While the team's defense is solid, it's the explosive offense that might lead Princeton to a national title. This talented group includes Hale, who is now just two goals away from the Princeton record for goals scored in a career, creative Melanie Meerschwam '01, and the speedy O'Malley.
Bozman has also been impressed by the team's conditioning. "I don't think I've ever had a team that worked as hard as this one over the summer," she says. Perhaps it was memories of North Carolina that drove the team during their workouts this summer, memories that the team hopes will be exorcised later this fall.
Pity the women's soccer team. While most Princeton students were spending the end of the summer at home, the soccer team was forced to endure a 10-day preseason trip across Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. Somehow the team managed to concentrate long enough to compile a 4-1 record, despite brutal distractions such as tours of Frankfurt and Milan, as well as a boat ride down the Mecca River in Germany.
The trip must have prepared the players for adversity, because upon returning home they won their first two games by identical 1-0 scores. In the first game against Boston University on September 11, the team managed to find a way to win despite being outshot 14-4. Four days later in their home opener, the Tigers had an easier time against Rutgers, as they dominated time of possession and controlled the flow of the game.
The women had a strong season last year, finishing 10-6-1, which was the first time this decade the team reached double digits in wins. And, with 24 of 26 players returning, the team expects even greater things this year. Coach Julie Shackford certainly wants to improve last season's 3-4 record in the Ivy League. "Competing for the league title is an obvious goal," she says.
The strength of the team is an experienced and talented defense that surrendered just over a goal a game in 1997. Last year's starting goalkeepers, Jonna Iacono '99 and Jordan Rettig '01, are once again sharing time in net. Although there is plenty of talent on offense, in the opening games the team has had trouble generating consistent pressure in the opposing team's half. Cerebral soccer fans will want to keep their eye on junior back Susan Rea, whose position requires her to play all over the field.
The scheduler was not kind to the men's team, as it opened against the ninth-ranked University of Connecticut. Seventy minutes into the game, the Tigers were only down by one goal, but they gave up three quick strikes in the last 20 minutes to lose 5-1. Two days later the team met 13th-ranked Georgetown. Again, the Tigers started strong, and were locked in a scoreless tie with 30 minutes remaining. But, once again, the team surrendered a series of late goals and lost 4-0.
This pattern must have felt familiar to the Tigers, because a strong start followed by a disappointing finish characterized last season. The 1997 Tigers jumped out to a 6-3-1 record but lost five of their last seven games and finished at 8-8-1. To improve that record the team must better its 3-3-1 mark in the Ivy League.
The Tigers certainly have the talent to achieve that goal. The defense, led by Mid Atlantic first team selection Chris Halupka '99, ought to be solid -- despite its inauspicious start. Last year's freshman sensation, Matt Striebel, highlights an entertaining offense. The team also added a number of highly regarded recruits, including three NSCAA All-Americas. Newcomer Matt Behncke '02 made an immediate impact, scoring the team's lone goal of the season on an artistic chip shot.
The biggest question is in goal, where the keepers entered the year with a combined seven minutes of collegiate experience. It didn't help that George-town and UConn peppered Michael Cohen '01 and Keith Lucas '99, who split time the first two games, with 41 shots -- a barrage that would leave even the most battle-hardened keeper looking for relief. If that barrage was just the inevitable result of playing highly ranked opponents before the team had an opportunity to gel, the Tigers should be dangerous by the end of the year. If, on the other hand, those first two opponents revealed a fundamental weakness in the Tiger defense and midfield -- traditional strengths of the team -- it could be a long season.