November 5, 2003: Sports
Sports Web Exclusives! P-nut Gallery column
touchdown spurs first win
By Phillip Thune 92
PHOTO: Justin Stull 06, shown here at the Colgate game, had a career-high 15 tackles against Brown. (Beverly Schaefer)
On October 18, on a sunny day in Providence, Brown had the ball 14 minutes more than Princeton, and ran almost 40 more offensive plays. The Tigers committed 10 penalties, costing them more than 100 yards. Quarterback Matt Verbit 05 was the teams second-leading receiver, catching two passes from his own tipped throws.
Sounds familiar, like a team off to the worst start in school history; a team that lost to Colgate at home, 303, the week before, being held to just a field goal for only the second time in coach Roger Hughes four-year tenure; a team that gives up big plays on defense and coughs up the ball on offense at the most inopportune times.
But the outcome of a football game is not always about statistics, or long stretches of ineffectiveness. One big play can change a game, and can overcome the most lopsided deficiencies in yardage and time of possession.
On October 18, on a sunny day in Providence, Princeton made that one play. After nearly 45 minutes of ineptitude on offense, Princeton was pinned on its own one-yard line. Verbit fired to wideout Clinton Wu 05 as he cut across the middle on a slant route. Wu, making just his third career reception, caught the ball at the 10-yard line, broke between two defenders toward the sideline, and raced into the record books.
When the 99-yard pass was over, Verbit and Wu had tied an N.C.A.A. record for the longest play from scrimmage, and more important, had given Princeton a 137 advantage over Brown, waking up the Tiger offense from a deep slumber. Brown came back immediately to retake the lead, 1413, but Princeton notched touchdowns on three of its next four possessions to run away with its first victory of the season, 3414.
Wus reception reversed the games momentum. Brown really felt at that point that they were ready, in [Bruins coach] Phil Estess words, to put a dagger in our hearts, says Hughes. As much as it had a lifting effect on our sideline, I think it had just the opposite effect on theirs.
Having already lost to Columbia (23) on a last-second Hail Mary pass, the Tigers big play against Brown (14) will not propel them to the Ivy title, especially with Harvard (50), Penn (50), and Yale (41) still to come.
However, it offers some hope that the promising 64 record of last year was not an aberration. Princetons troubles during the first half of the season were the result of being overmatched and inexperienced.
But the Tigers young players redeemed themselves against Brown, especially linebacker Justin Stull 06 (career-high 15 tackles), and tailback Brandon Benson 05 (career-high 128 yards). With five games remaining, Hughes can focus on developing his emerging talent, and trying to extend the glow of that one big play.
Phillip Thune 92 is COO/CFO of Internet marketing company FindWhat.com in Ft. Myers, Florida.
lives up to expectations
PHOTO: Esmerelda Negron 05 (Beverly Schaefer)
Theres no predicting what may happen on the playing field. By mid-October, football, a team many expected to build on last years winning season, had won only one game. On the other hand, mens water polo, which graduated two superstar seniors, had 17 wins and only three losses.
Womens soccer, however, has just done exactly what was hoped: build on one of the most successful campaigns in the programs history. The Tigers ended last year with a record of 1432, their first 14-win season since 1980.
This year, the Tigers were 812 through their first 11 games, and appeared to have a shot at matching last years win total. And the teams best performance of the year to date doesnt even appear in the win column it came in a draw. On September 21, the Tigers played the University of CaliforniaBerkeley, then the 10th-ranked team in the nation, to a 11 tie.
The 2003 squad includes just two seniors, but the team finds stars in its youth, particularly midfielder Emily Behncke 06 and forward Esmeralda Negron 05.
Behncke whose older brother, Matt 02, played four years for the Tigers and currently holds a roster spot for Dallass Major League Soccer franchise doesnt let the family down. After a strong freshman campaign, the Virginia native was recognized as Princetons Athlete of the Week after a two-goal performance September 19 against Sacramento State a game the Tigers won 31. Says Coach Julie Shackford, Emily has the ability to open up a game but plays in the midfield. She scores some key goals and is still learning a very difficult position. Behncke places her confidence in the squad as a whole. I believe we can beat any team on our schedule, she says.
Other squads are beginning to get wind of Behnckes ability, though, and she no longer is able to surprise teams as she did as an unheralded freshman. Opponents, Shackford admits, have keyed in on her and she is going to have to figure out different ways to make an impact. We are looking to have her work on being more of a playmaker on the ball and more of an active defender.
Negron didnt waste any time assuming the mantle of go-to girl, scoring a goal in each of the Tigers first seven games. Esmeralda, says Shackford, has the ability to break open a game with her speed and ability to take on defenders. By mid-October she had nine goals for the season, already one better than her total from last year. She was leading the Tigers and the Ivy League with a total of 20 points.
There may be a few things that can slow this one-two punch starting with Dartmouth. The Big Green handed Princeton its lone loss of the season, October 5, on a last-minute header. Behncke says, All we can do now is beat the rest of the teams in the Ivy League and hope that someone else knocks off Dartmouth.
By Nate Sellyn 04
Competing in the World Fencing Championships, October 4 to 11 in Havana, Soren Thompson 04 defied expectations, reaching the top eight in the tournament. Ranked 97th in the world entering the competition, Thompson became the first U.S. fencer in recent history to reach the top eight of the mens épée. Competing against professionals who train full-time, Thompson scored a number of upset victories before losing by a point, 1514, in the quarterfinal round.
In MENS WATER POLO, Princeton continued its successful campaign in California over the October 11 weekend, improving to 142 this season. The Tigers went 31, defeating the University of CaliforniaDavis, Air Force, and 16th-ranked Pacific. Their lone loss came to the nations top-ranked team, California, when a four-goal first-half deficit proved too much to overcome.
WOMENS VOLLEYBALL enjoyed a successful midseason run, winning five of its last six matches. The Tigers dominated Yale in a 31 victory October 11, and stand at 95 for the season, with a 21 Ivy record. Kellie Cramm 04 leads the squad, with significant contributions from Alex Brown 05 and Lauren Grumet 06. The team is now entering the Ivy part of its schedule, and its remaining 11 matches come against opponents within the conference. The Tigers lost to defending league champion Penn October 3.
As of mid-October, FIELD HOCKEY was undefeated in the Ivy League at 40, and had a 73 record overall. Midfielder Claire Miller 04 (six goals and 14 points) remains the cornerstone of the Tiger offense, and attacker Lizzie Black 05 (five goals and 13 points) is close behind. The team faces three more Ivy opponents before the N.C.A.A. tournament begins in mid-November.
WOMENS GOLFs unbeaten streak this year came to an end in the Nittany Lion Womens Invitational at Penn State. The team finished fifth overall in the tournament, and top Tiger Meg Nakamura 05 tied for ninth individually at 11 over par. Nakamura, Avery Kiser 05, and Sharla Cloutier 07 took turns atop the individual standings in Princetons first three tournaments, all first-place finishes.
Former mens basketball captain Nate Walton 01 recently learned its tough to beat a killing machine from the future. Walton managed only 1,508 votes in Californias recall election October 7, finishing 43rd among 145 candidates.