September 10, 2003: Sports
Sports Web Exclusives! P-nut Gallery column
eye the prize
By Phillip R. Thune 92
Photo: All-Ivy Joe Weiss 04, above, and Tim Kirby 04 power the leagues best defensive line. (Bevery Schaefer)
Yes! Whether it is said by N.B.A. announcer Marv Albert after a crucial shot, or written in an acceptance letter to a Princeton applicant, that one short word conveys excitement like no other.
As Princeton football coach Roger Hughes enters his fourth season, Yes! is the answer to many questions about his program.
Yes, Hughes can deliver a winning season. The 2002 team finished with a record of 64 (43 in the Ivy League), its first winning campaign since 1997 and its first top-three finish in the Ivies since 1995.
Yes, the team can win close games. In Hughess first two years on the job, the Tigers lost six contests by less than a touchdown. But in 2002, Princeton won several tight games, coming from behind to beat Cornell in overtime and capitalizing on late rallies against Columbia and Dartmouth.
Yes, Hughes knows how to design a passing game. In his first three years at Princeton, the Tigers posted two of the 10 highest season passing totals in team history, including last fall, when David Splithoff 04 and Matt Verbit 05 combined for 2,172 yards.
And yes, the team can get it done on defense, too. The Tigers allowed the fewest passing yards in the league last year, and the second-fewest rushing yards.
Unfortunately, while yes is the answer to more questions about Princeton football than it has been in years, the dreaded but remains. Yes, Princeton has a core group that has played together for a couple of years, especially at quarterback, tailback, wideout, and the defensive line, but other Ivy teams look stronger, including defending champions Penn (91, 70 Ivy) and Harvard (73, 61 Ivy).
Yes, Princeton returns 12 starters and has solid talent, but weak areas will be difficult to overcome, namely on the offensive line, at linebacker, and in the secondary. The team was stung when three All-Ivy players linebacker Zak Keasey 04 and defensive backs Brandon Mueller 04 and Jay McCareins 05 were ruled academically ineligible and required to take a year off from school.
Splithoff is a big-play quarterback he has 11 career touchdown passes of more than 50 yards and a dangerous scrambler, but the Tigers graduated four seniors from the offensive line. Splithoff must both create offense and preserve his health. He has suffered serious injuries in two of his three seasons, and an inexperienced line may not be able to keep him out of harms way. Verbit performed well as a replacement last year and took all of the snaps in spring practice. Both kids are good players and can run our whole offense, says Hughes, who may use both during games.
Linebacker traditionally is one of Princetons strengths, but this year will be the exception, especially with the loss of Keasey. Yes, the Tigers have plenty of candidates for starting linebacker, but many of the hopefuls have thin bona fides. All-Ivy players Joe Weiss 04 and Tim Kirby 04 will power the leagues best defensive line, but that may not be enough to compensate for the inexperience behind them.
The media expect Princeton to finish fifth in the Ivy race this year, behind Penn, Harvard, Yale, and Dartmouth. The Tigers face all four in the second half of the season, meaning Princeton will need successive upsets to contend for the league title. The way this league is, I dont think there is a whole lot separating the bottom from the top, says Hughes, who is optimistic. If you look over the last 10 years, six different teams have won the league. An injury here, a bad break there; I think its anybodys race.
Yes, the Princeton program has an outside shot at a league title, but it appears more likely that this season will be just another step forward, instead of a coronation, for Hughes and his program.
Phillip R. Thune 92 is COO/CFO of Internet marketing company FindWhat.com in Ft. Myers, Florida.
September 20 Lehigh 7:00 p.m.
September 27 at Lafayette 1:00 p.m.
October 4 Columbia 7:00 p.m.
October 11 Colgate 1:00 p.m.
October 18 at Brown 1:00 p.m.
October 25 at Harvard 1:00 p.m.
November 1 Cornell 1:00 p.m.
November 8 at Pennsylvania 1:00 p.m.
November 15 Yale 1:00 p.m.
November 22 at Dartmouth 12:30 p.m.
By Argelio R. Dumenigo
Photos: Louise Gengler 75, above right, is retiring as womens tennis coach after 25 years. Right, Gengler in her senior season. (Beverly Schaefer). Maureen Curran 76 takes on Cornell on the pagoda courts in 1974. (Office of Athletic Communications)
Princeton tennis is saying goodbye to two program mainstays this academic year. Louise Gengler 75, whose tennis career at Princeton as a player and coach has spanned four decades, will retire as head coach of the womens tennis team after the spring 2004 season.
Gengler spent most of her playing and coaching hours on the Universitys pagoda courts. But with the construction of Whitman College beginning next month on the site, the courts are being removed. New courts at the Universitys Lenz Tennis Center will replace them. The University plans to move the Mathey Tennis Pavilion, which gave the pagoda courts their nickname, to the site of the new courts. The pagoda courts have been the center of the Universitys and the Princeton communitys tennis activity for 43 years.
Gengler will have served 25 years when she leaves, the longest tenure for any female coach in Princeton history. A three-sport athlete in the early days of coeducation at Princeton, Gengler says she will remain in the Princeton area and stay involved with tennis, but has no specific plans.
Its a nice time to wrap it up, and Ill still have time to add something else to my life, she says. Princeton continues to attract amazing kids. Thats one reason Ive stayed here so long, and one reason it will be difficult to leave. Gengler led the Tigers to seven Ivy League titles and four E.I.T.A. championships, and has a career record of 323-174 entering her final season.
Before her exit, Gengler and the Friends of Princeton Tennis are planning PagodaFest, September 1213, a weekend-long farewell to the 27 tennis courts built in 1960 on the area known as Brokaw Field. The courts are considered the birthplace of womens varsity sports at Princeton, which began on the pagodas clay courts in 1971. The team did not lose a match on the courts from 1971 to 1975, winning 39 straight overall.
The courts also played a central role in the birth of one of the countrys first community tennis programs, the Princeton Community Tennis Program, which was started by Eve Kraft, the Universitys first womens tennis coach, and former mens coach John Conroy. Conroy, who coached from 1946 to 1971, did not lose a match on the pagoda courts from 1960 to 1965, as the team won 54 consecutive matches.
PagodaFest activities include instructional clinics for students, faculty, staff, and their families; mens and womens tennis-team alumni tournaments; an inaugural womens tennis alumni reunion, and a dinner reception. For more PagodaFest information, go to http://friendsofprincetontennis.com/pagodafest.html.
Argelio R. Dumenigo is a writer in Philadelphia and a former PAW associate editor.
Photos by Beverly Schaefer
Hank Towns h82, who touched the lives of thousands of Tiger students since he began working for Princeton athletics in 1970, announced in July that he would retire from his position as head equipment manager this year.
Over the years, Towns served as a confidant, adviser, and cheerleader. Hank Towns is as great a teacher as we have in this University, head football coach Roger Hughes told the Trenton Times. Towns is one of only two people to have worked with all four directors of athletics in Princeton history: Ken Fairman 34, Royce Flippin 56, Bob Myslik 61, and current A.D. Gary Walters 67. Hank Towns is a legendary part of Princeton athletics and will be missed by the many athletes who passed through Caldwell Field House during his tenure, said Maryland Governor and former football captain Robert Ehrlich 79.
Mens soccer alum Mike Nugent 02, the 2001 Ivy League Player of the Year, has joined the M.L.S.s MetroStars. He is now playing for another Princeton soccer star and former Tiger coach, Bob Bradley 80, the head coach of the MetroStars, who play in New Jersey.
On the football alum front, the N.F.L.s Baltimore Ravens invited wide receiver Chisom Opara 03 to the teams camp this summer, and the Buffalo Bills picked up offensive lineman Ross Tucker 01 after he was let go by the Dallas Cowboys. Tucker started the final seven games of the 2002 season at left guard for the Cowboys after playing with Washington, where he began his pro football career in 2001.
Womens soccers freshman recruits were ranked 19th nationally in Division I by SoccerBuzz, an online womens soccer magazine. The four freshmen Christina Costantino, Meghan Farrell, Amanda Ferranti, and Diana Matheson topped the Ivy League and were ranked third in the Mid-Atlantic region. Matheson already has competed internationally as a member of the Canadian national team, scoring a goal last spring against Mexico. Princeton went 1331 a year ago and won the Ivy League title while advancing to its fourth straight N.C.A.A. tournament.
The freshman heavyweight A crew defeated the Princeton varsity lightweight B crew to claim the Temple Cup at Englands Henley Royal Regatta in July. The freshman crew, which went undefeated this past season and claimed a national title, outdistanced its fellow Tigers by two-and-a-quarter lengths.
Former mens basketball coaching great and Hall of Famer Pete Carril will resume his role as a full-time assistant with the N.B.A.s Sacramento Kings after spending last season as special assistant to team president Geoff Petrie 70. Carril, who coached Petrie at Princeton, spent last winter on the East Coast, but his desire to return was obvious from his enthusiasm during the 2003 playoffs, according to an interview with Kings head coach Rick Adelman in the San Francisco Chronicle this summer. I think as he was away during the year and he came back, he didnt like the way it was. He wanted to be around more, Adelman told the newspaper. We talked about it, and I think its terrific. He does a great job with the players, hes a great influence on me, and his input is terrific.
By Argelio R. Dumenigo