February 11, 2004: Sports
Sports Web Exclusives! P-nut Gallery column
swimming dives into the record books
After womens swimming and diving beat Harvard and Yale at last seasons H-Y-P meet, coach Susan Teeter let her team in on a secret. The Tigers were on the verge of making history. If they could win their final two meets and three more in 200304, they would break a school record for the longest winning streak in any sport.
It took a little time for the idea to sink in, Teeter says, but by the time the Tigers opened the season in November, the significance was clear. The team swept three meets in two days to run their streak to 44, one better than the previous mark set by mens tennis from 1975 to 1980. When the streak finally ended at 47 with a loss to Pittsburgh January 5, all the Tigers could think of was getting back into the pool. Theyre ready to win again, Teeter says.
How impressive is a 47-meet winning streak? In a sport where hundredths of a second can mean the difference between winning and losing, the Tigers managed to stay unbeaten for five and a half seasons. Their last loss before Pittsburgh came in 1998, when Princetons mens basketball team was ranked among the top 10 teams in the country, George W. Bush was a first-term governor in Texas, and Monica Lewinsky was just becoming a household name.
Its definitely a record that all of them, going all the way back to 9798, will value having been a part of for many years to come, Teeter says. I truly believe, in my heart of hearts, that when they come back for their 50th reunions, this record will still be standing.
This years team has legitimate stars, such as 2003 N.C.A.A. qualifiers Sarah Fraumann 04 and Stephanie Hsiao 05, and a supporting cast that contributed to three of the Tigers four consecutive Ivy League titles. But the programs success starts with Teeter, a 20-year veteran and two-time U.S. Olympic team assistant. She came to Princeton as a first-time head coach, believing that if she could win without scholarships, the big-time schools would take notice. They did, but when the job offers came, Teeter turned them down. I fell in love with what Princeton represented, academically and athletically, Teeter says. I didnt want to leave.
Instead, she concentrated on building the Princeton program, attracting student-athletes who shared her goals. Her frank approach to recruiting weeds out selfishness. If you cant be a good person and give on a higher level as a teammate, she tells prospective swimmers, youre probably not going to fit into our style of coaching. As Hsiao recalls, when she visited Princeton as a high schooler, she didnt feel as if she were being recruited. It was more of an introduction, followed by an opportunity to join. Everyone is here because they want to be here, she says.
With 42 women, Princeton has the biggest squad in the Ivy League, almost twice as large as some teams. Teeter does not make cuts, provided that everyone can keep pace with a rigorous training routine that includes double sessions four times a week. For morning practice, the swimmers roll out of bed and make the chilly walk to DeNunzio Pool to be in the water by 6:30 a.m. The second session starts at 4 p.m., after classes. Despite the schedule, all 11 swimmers from the Class of 2004 have stuck with the sport for four years. We get a lot of respect [from other students], says Katie Kopil 04. People are astonished by the amount of hours we put in, and when those hours are.
More players on the roster means more players on the bench, or off the bus when the Tigers travel. But that doesnt bother captain Stefanie Lawlor 04, a backup butterfly swimmer who calls the team her family on campus. She often travels to meets with other reserves to cheer on her teammates from the bleachers. We have some people who are great leaders who arent scoring a point, Teeter says. I think thats the beauty of the Princeton program.
In the summer of 1998, Princeton hosted the World Junior Championships of squash, bringing more than 150 of the top international young players to campus. For coach Bob Callahan 77, the tournaments director, extensive planning for the event proved more than worthwhile. Five players from the field ended up playing for the Princeton mens team, including four in the Class of 2003, one of the most successful groups of Tiger players ever. But after winning three Ivy League titles in the last four years, Callahan faces the unenviable task of replacing his departed standouts. Weve got to think about doing another tournament, he jokes.
Thanks in part to Callahans continued international recruiting, a return to the top might not be too far away for the Tigers. Playing without five of last years top six players, they dominated their first four opponents in preparation for a string of formidable tests against Penn, Yale, Harvard, and Trinity. Princetons freshmen tallied a 210 record early in the season, with notable contributions from Vincent Yu 07, one of Hong Kongs top juniors, and Michael Gilman 07, a former U.S. junior national team player.
Princeton can count on getting points at the top of the lineup, with defending national champion Yasser El Halaby 06 returning to the number-one spot. Last year, 2001 national champion David Yik 03 and 2003 national finalist Will Evans 03 kept El Halaby sharp in practice matches, but Callahan had to be more creative this season. He has challenged his star with 30- to 45-minute pressure sessions to simulate the exhaustion of long matches, and El Halaby occasionally plays against two teammates at once to test himself. He certainly adds a lot of excitement to the team, Callahan says. Its fun to see squash played at that level.
Even with the nations top player in the lineup, opponents are anxious to face the young Tigers, a lesson learned early in the season at Cornell. The Big Red had defeated Penn the day before hosting Princeton and came into the match brimming with confidence. Princeton swept the match, 90, but the experience gave the team an early reminder to keep its guard up. All of these schools think this is their year to beat Princeton, Callahan says.
Goalie Megan Van Beusekom 04 stopped 35 shots in wins over Colgate and Cornell January 9 and 10 as WOMENS HOCKEY improved to 115. Van Beusekom, who ranks second in the E.C.A.C. with a 1.87 goals-against average, has been in net for eight of the Tigers victories.
MENS HOCKEY played overtime games on back-to-back nights, tying St. Lawrence 55 January 9 and losing to Clarkson 54 January 10. Matt Maglione 04 and Dustin Sproat 06 scored goals in both contests.
Andre Logan 05s team-high 16 points werent enough to propel MENS BASKETBALL past Minnesota January 10. The Tigers 5753 loss was their fifth by four points or fewer. Logan has scored in double figures four times since returning from injuries in December.
WOMENS BASKETBALL opened its Ivy season with a 6554 loss at Penn January 9. Casey Lockwood 07 scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Tigers, who led in the second half before being outscored 206 in the final eight minutes.
WOMENS INDOOR TRACK started the new year with wins over Rutgers and St. Johns January 10. The Tigers won five events and dominated the one-mile run, capturing the first four places. MENS INDOOR TRACK won its January 10 dual meet against Navy, 9371, behind strong throwing performances by Paul Lyons 05 and Josh McCaughey 04.
MENS and WOMENS FENCING defeated Stevens and the New Jersey Institute of Technology in a three-way match January 10.
On February 20, the MENS SQUASH team will compete inside a portable, transparent squash court at New York Citys Grand Central Terminal. The four-team college tournament, on display for commuting spectators, is a prelude to the Professional Squash Associations Tournament of Champions.