March 26, 2003: Sports
Sports Web Exclusives! P-nut Gallery column
of the mountain
By Paul Hagar 91
Photo: All-America Rachael Becker 03 leads a defense that was ranked first nationally after the 2002 season. (Beverly Schaefer)
Remember the schoolyard favorite King of the Mountain? You scramble to the top of a mound of snow, then try to hold your ground while fending off kids bent on knocking you down an icy slope. This year, thats the essence of the season for Princetons national champion womens lacrosse team dont get knocked off.
With a 19-game win streak and a No. 1 preseason ranking despite graduating three of their best players, the Tigers began the defense of their N.C.A.A. title in early March. Theres no resting on their laurels; three of Princetons first four games were against ranked opponents: No. 5 Loyola, No. 3 Virginia, and No. 2 Duke.
With eight veterans returning, the prospects look good for another Ivy title and N.C.A.A. tournament run. We will certainly learn a lot about ourselves in March, says coach Chris Sailer, whose team faces fourth-ranked Georgetown March 28.
League competition wont be any easier. On April 4, the Tigers visit Cornell, which also made the Final Four in 2002, and started the season ranked ninth. Eight days later, Princeton travels to 13th-ranked Yale.
Offense is the key question this year. Sailer is looking for goals and leadership from a core group of attackers and midfielders, including Alex Fiore 03, Whitney Miller 03, All-America Theresa Sherry 04, Liza Hillenbrand 04, Lindsey Biles 05, and Elizabeth Pillion 05. All-America Rachael Becker 03 will lead the defense, working with Katie Norbury 04 and goalkeeper Sarah Kolodner 05.
Our key is staying mentally strong through the twists and turns, no matter what happens, says Sailer, whose Tigers proved their resiliency in 2002. Last March, Princetons only defeat came against Georgetown in the first game of the season. The team used that loss as motivation the rest of the year, culminating in a 127 win in the N.C.A.A. championship. This year, the Tigers start on top.
Paul Hagar 91 writes frequently for PAW.
questions, fewer answers
By Matt Henshon 91
With three games left on its schedule, the mens basketball team (1410, 83 Ivy) was in jeopardy of snapping a streak of seven straight postseason appearances. The Tigers raised many questions this year, starting with: How much were they victims of past success?
Observers of the Ivy League have noticed during the last few years that opponents have been imitating the hallowed Princeton offense. By one count, four of the seven other Ivy teams use at least some of the offensive schemes screening and cutting combinations.
Meanwhile, as highlighted in a recent Sports Illustrated article by Grant Wahl 96, the Princeton system has spread through the basketball world at all levels N.B.A., colleges, and high school. So, while the offense probably has been overrated as a factor in Princetons success over the years, it is clear that teams are seeing, and preparing for, the Princeton offense more often than they had in the past.
Also, what if this team had been healthy all year? Andre Logan 04 entered the year hoping to bounce back from a knee injury that kept him out of most Ivy games last year. Instead, Logan played in the first three, averaging 12 points, before reinjuring the knee and withdrawing from school. Spencer Gloger 04 (15.7 p.p.g.) played brilliantly at times, before severely spraining his ankle during the second half of a loss at home to Brown, which helped the Bears win in Princeton for the first time in 53 games. Less than a week later he was declared academically ineligible for the remainder of the season and is no longer enrolled at Princeton.
Looking ahead, to whom will coach John Thompson 88 turn next year for the court savvy supplied by Kyle Wente 03 and the athleticism of Ray Robins 03? Thompson returns the nucleus of a quality backcourt with Ed Persia 04, Will Venable 05 (11.3 p.p.g.), and Scott Greenman 06, while the publication Hoop Scoop places the incoming freshman class in the Top 50 in the U.S. If Thompson can find support in the frontcourt for Judson Wallace 05 (9.8 p.p.g., 5.7 r.p.g.) and Konrad Wysocki 04, there may be fewer questions, and more answers, next year.
Matt Henshon 91 is a principal with the Allerton Law Group, P.C. in Boston.