October 8, 2003: Sports
Sports Web Exclusives! P-nut Gallery column
displays and disappointments
By Sophia Hollander 02
Photo: Quarterback Matt Verbit 05 with the ball in the second quarter, before fumbling moments later. (Beverly Schaefer)
The plays flared and faded like beacons fired into the sky, signaling Matt Verbit 05s potential.
Sparkling displays vanished as quickly as they had come in Princetons season-opening, 2813 loss against Lehigh before 15,205 fans at Princeton Stadium.
With David Splithoff 04 still nursing the shoulder injury he received last season against Harvard, the Tigers thrust Verbit into the starters seat. He responded with a performance that was both shaky and at times sensational.
Verbits 39- and 37-yard passes to Jon Dekker 06 were erased by meager rushing attempts; an inspired 32-yard rush quickly was countered by his fumble three plays later.
Princeton was trailing 280, when Verbit launched a dazzling 75-yard touchdown pass to B. J. Szymanski 05 to start the fourth quarter. But the extra-point attempt clanged off the goal post.
I made some stupid mistakes, Verbit said. I wasnt happy with the way I played at all.
It was the Tigers fifth straight season-opening loss and seventh straight loss to Lehigh (30), ranked No. 20 in Division I-AA entering the game. Though the Tigers enjoyed a winning season last year, the loss of key players and continued inconsistency from Verbit will make it challenging to build on that success.
In one typical sequence in the second quarter, Verbit scooted across the field with the ease of a bicycle zipping through traffic. He zoomed up the left side, swerved nimbly to avoid a crash, and sped past the players in pursuit.
The 32-yard run seemed just the spark the Tigers needed. But on his next rushing attempt, Verbit fumbled the ball directly into Lehighs hands.
He got a little jittery at times, Prince-ton head coach Roger Hughes said.
The Tigers missed the steadying hand of cocaptain Splithoff, the fifth all-time leading passer in school history, with 3,446 yards. Though Splithoff was available to play, the Tigers prefer to let him recover fully in time for the Ivy League season, Hughes said.
The gaps in Princetons defensive line left by the loss of three All-Ivy players to academic ineligibility linebacker Zak Keasey 04 and defensive backs Jay McCareins 05 and Brandon Mueller 04 were glaring.
Mountain Hawks roamed the field at will, plucking uncontested passes from the air, while Lehighs offensive line limited the experienced members of the Princeton defense to only one sack.
We found a way to shoot ourselves in the foot, Hughes said. But, he added, The kids hung in there.
The Tigers mustered a convincing rally in the fourth quarter, led by Verbits two touchdown passes reminiscent of last season when he led two fourth-quarter comebacks.
Princeton actually gained more net yards than Lehigh 400 to 386 with Verbit throwing 296 passing yards and rushing for 70 yards.
But the positives were overshadowed by the failure to capitalize on big plays and the porous defense.
Setbacks, Hughes said, pave the way for comebacks.
Sophia Hollander 02 is a senior researcher/ writer for NYC2012, which is working to bring the 2012 Olympic Games to New York City.
Photos by Beverly Schaefer
The season began well for WOMENS SOCCER. In the Princeton Invitational September 1214, the Tigers first defeated the University of North Carolina at Greensboro 30 and then beat Saint Louis 21, limiting the Billikens to seven shots. In the season opener, Princeton defeated American 41. Scorers against American included Theresa Sherry 04, who racked up goals in two consecutive games playing two different sports. Sherry ended last year with the game-winning overtime goal in last springs N.C.A.A. championship womens lacrosse game against Virginia.
Despite the record heat, the MENS SOCCER team survived a summer trip to Italy with a 22 record, and impressive victory came against Piacenza, the 2002 Under-21 national champions. Back in the U.S., the team lost to Villanova 10 but returned to defeat Lehigh 10.
In FIELD HOCKEY, the Tigers under new coach Kristen Holmes-Winn outlasted Yale 54 in an overtime thriller September 13, but lost the next day to Penn State 32. It was the third straight time that Princeton, fell to the Nittany Lions.
WOMENS GOLF set a team record for a two-round tournament when the Tigers defeated 17 opponents at the Dart-mouth Invitational. First-place finisher Avery Kiser 05 shot a two-under 71 to claim the tournament championship.
MENS WATER POLO was 40 after defeating Iona 10-6 in the North/South Invitational at DeNunzio Pool September 14. John Stover 06 was named Princeton Athlete of the Week after scoring 14 goals over the course of the four games.
Augusts World Rowing Champion-ships in Milan didnt lack for Princetonians. Tiger LIGHTWEIGHT CREW captain John Wachter 04 helped stroke the U.S. lightweight mens eight to a silver medal. Andreanne Morin 04, of Montreal, picked up a bronze medal for Canada in the womens open eight and helped qualify her boat for the Olympic Games.
Other Tigers were Jason Flickinger 99, Tom Herschmiller 01, Simon Carcagno 98, Danika Harris 95, and Lianne Bennion Nelson 95. Flickinger took home U.S. gold in the mens four with cox, and Herschmiller helped Canada capture the Mens Straight Four title. Carcagno received a bronze medal in the mens lightweight pair event.
Sometimes you just need a bigger trophy case. WOMENS LACROSSE player Rachael Becker 03 has been named a finalist for the Womens Sports Foundations 2003 Sportswoman of the Year Award. A three-time first-team All-American, Becker also won the 2003 Honda Award for lacrosse, and shared the coveted C. Otto von Kienbusch award as Princetons top senior female athlete.
By Nate Sellyn 04