March 10, 2004: Sports
Sports Web Exclusives! P-nut Gallery column
lacrosse: A virtual unknown
By David Marcus 92
The outlook for mens lacrosse at the start of the past three seasons was invariably rosy the Tigers played for the N.C.A.A. title in 2000, 2001, and 2002 and returned a core of experienced players each succeeding spring. Most of those players saw their final game in Princetons 155 loss to Syracuse in last Mays quarterfinals. Of the 18 Tigers who saw substantial time last year, 11 were seniors, many of whom had started for three or four years. With their departure, says coach Bill Tierney, everything is a virtual unknown.
Tierney expects as many as eight or nine of the teams 14 freshmen to see significant playing time, and with the teams youth comes renewed enthusiasm. Says cocaptain Jason Doneger 05, I think there was a feeling last year that the seniors had been around for a while and won a national championship they were the best players, and they knew they were going to play. The situation this year will drive guys to work a little harder.
Doneger and cocaptain Ryan Boyle 04 will be the teams cornerstones. Boyle, a four-year starter, was a first-team All-American attackman last year and will direct the teams offense again this season. Doneger scored 41 goals in 2003 and will be the Tigers top scoring threat with the loss of Sean Hartofilis 03, who also netted 41 goals last season. Scott Sowanick 07 and Peter Trombino 07 will compete for the third starting spot at attack.
Sowanick and Trombino are also candidates to start in the midfield, where Princeton needs all the help it can get. Five of Princetons top six midfielders graduated, and only Drew Casino 04 and Mac Bryson 05 saw significant time last year. Jim OBrien 06 is likely to join Casino and Bryson in the starting lineup. Tierney says the backup line of midfielders could change as the season progresses. Casino and Ryan Schoenig 06 took most of the face-offs last year, a duty that will be placed more squarely on Schoenigs shoulders this season.
On defense, first-team All-American and four-year starter Damien Davis 03 has graduated, as has three-year starter Brian Lieberman 03. Returning starter Ricky Schultz 04 will be joined by Oliver Barry 05, a defensive midfielder last year. Tim Sullivan 05, John Bennett 07, Zac Jungers 07, and Will Presti 07 will challenge for the third spot, with Tony Vita 06 replacing Joe Rosenbaum 03 at longstick midfield. David Law 06 and Matt Larkin 05 will compete to replace Julian Gould 03 in goal.
The newcomers will be tested in a hurry, as Princeton plays perennial powers Johns Hopkins, Virginia, and Syracuse in March. Tierney says the stiff competition is an advantage: If were smart as coaches, well play as many people as we can in those big games, because those will tell you if youve got someone special or not.
After running that gauntlet, Princeton moves into the Ivy League schedule in April, where the strongest competition should come from Cornell and Dartmouth, both of which tied Princeton for last years Ivy title. Despite the teams youth, Doneger refuses to accept the idea of a rebuilding year. We have the talent to get back to where we want to be, he says.
David Marcus 92 writes frequently for PAW.
basketball responds with a New York sweep
Two days after suffering its first Ivy League loss, against Penn, the mens basketball team took a five-hour bus ride to Ithaca for a February 13 meeting with Cornell, this seasons Ivy upstart. With first place on the line against the Big Red, center Judson Wallace 05 knew the Tigers had no time to dwell on the Penn loss. We cant let one setback ruin our season, he said.
They didnt. Wallace scored 22 points, shedding an early Ivy slump, and Will Venable 05 continued his emergence as a team leader, with a career-high 28 points in the Tigers 6964 win over Cornell. Venables nine-of-12 shooting dazzled the sellout crowd, but his defense was just as important, helping to hold the Big Reds top scorer, Cody Toppert, to eight points.
A night later at Columbia, all five Princeton starters scored in double figures, led by Wallaces 23 points, but the Tigers trailed for the first 39 minutes. With five seconds remaining, Venable received an Andre Logan 05 pass on a backdoor cut and converted a layup to tie the game. After sinking 12 of 16 free throws in overtime, the Tigers emerged on top, 7871.
Princetons performances in the New York wins contrasted starkly with the February 10 Penn game, when the aggressive Quakers forced 10 first-half turnovers in their 6752 win. The Tigers defense sagged as Penn guard Jeff Schiffner sizzled on the perimeter with 22 points. Penn made nine of 15 three-pointers, giving the Tigers the sinking feeling normally endured by Princeton opponents. To play defense for 25 seconds and then have them hit a three, Wallace says, thats kind of demoralizing.
In the first half of its Ivy schedule, Princeton (137, 61 Ivy) played four of its five most difficult road games, winning all four, and took a one-game lead over Brown and Penn in the standings. But with the March 9 rematch at the Palestra looming, the Penn loss had overshadowed what was beginning to look like John Thompson 88s best season as the Tigers coach. Thompsons teams have lost five straight to the Quakers. We have to figure out how to win the next one, he says, not worry about the past.
lacrosse aims to defend title at home
In womens lacrosse, the N.C.A.A. Final Four is nearly three months away. For Princeton, it seems a lot closer. The University will host the national championship for the first time since 1990, and the two-time defending champion Tigers want to make sure they are on the field for the opening draw May 21. We cant help thinking about it, says cocaptain Theresa Sherry 04. But we try to focus on first things first.
The Tigers, ranked No. 1 in three national preseason polls, have a string of immediate goals to address, with five of the nations top 10 teams on the schedule in March: Loyola, Virginia, Duke, Penn State, and Georgetown. The Ivy League is as strong as ever this year, after placing three teams in the 16-team N.C.A.A. tournament last season, and Princeton lost three All-Americans to graduation.
On the bright side, the Tigers return nine of the players from the starting lineup in last years national championship game against Virginia, including Sherry, who netted the game-winning goal in overtime. Coach Chris Sailer cannot say enough about her dynamic senior star, who has split time at midfield and attack during her career. Shes not afraid to take the ball through traffic, Sailer says. Somehow, she keeps her cradle tight and gets through things. Shes explosive, she can get herself open, and shes got a rocket shot. Sherry has established herself as a go-to player when the game is on the line four of her team-high 42 goals last season were game-winners.
The Tigers have remarkable depth at attack, which should help keep defenses from focusing on Sherry. Lindsey Biles 05 and Leigh Slonaker 05 head a group of seven players vying for time, and Sailer is looking for a few to rise to the top. Biles likely will supply quickness up front, while Olachi Opara 06 will look to add a more powerful dimension to the offense. In the midfield, Sherry and Elizabeth Pillion 05 provide experience, but youth could be just as important, with freshmen Kathleen Miller, Christine Dobrosky, Alex Gangler, and Caitlin Reimers competing for playing time. Sailer notes that the freshmen are versatile; Reimers can move back to defense, and Miller can also play attack.
Defensively, Princeton will miss Rachael Becker 03, winner of the Tewaarton Trophy, lacrosses equivalent of the Heisman. Goalie Sarah Kolodner 05, in her third season as the starter, is one of Princetons most experienced players in the back. She had a lot of help from the defense in the last two years, Sailer says. Now, shes going to be helping them out. Kolodners confidence in the cage is growing, which should take some of the pressure off defenders Mary Beth Hogan 04, Lauren Vance 06, and Katie Norbury 04, the other cocaptain. All three played important roles last season, and Norbury expects high energy on both ends of the field. Were young, were fast, and were going to make a lot of exciting plays, she says.
Sailer says that competing for a national championship at home would be as good as it gets, for both the players and coaches. But after 17 years at Princeton, she knows that each season has unique challenges. Its our hope that were going to realize our potential, she says. Hopefully, with the talent that we have, that will be good enough to get us where wed like to go. This year, it happens to be within walking distance.
WOMENS SQUASH finished the regular season 82, its best record since 19992000. In the final three matches February 1415, the Tigers lost to No. 2 Trinity and beat Williams and Amherst. Franny McKay 05 and Anina Nolan 07 each went 30 for the weekend. In MENS SQUASH, a February 14 loss to No. 1 Trinity marked Princetons third setback of the season, but Yasser El Halaby 06 kept his undefeated individual record intact.
WOMENS HOCKEY inched closer to last years program record of 20 wins, winning four straight through February 14 to improve to 166. Left winger Gretchen Anderson 04 was chosen as one of 10 finalists for the Kazmaier Award. Named for former Princeton hockey standout Patricia Kazmaier 86, the award is given annually to the nations top female collegiate player. MENS HOCKEY slid in the E.C.A.C. standings with an 11-game winless streak through February 14.
MENS SWIMMING beat Navy February 7 and Army February 14 to finish the E.I.S.L. regular season 80. The team climbed to No. 22 in the national rankings. WOMENS SWIMMING swept the Ivy League dual season, finishing its 70 run by beating Columbia February 5.
WOMENS INDOOR TRACK won five events and dominated the distance runs en route to a first-place finish in the H-Y-P meet February 14. The Tigers edged Yale by a single point and beat Harvard by 20. MENS INDOOR TRACK finished eighth in a talented field of nine teams at the Sykes-Saback Challenge Cup in Pittsburgh February 14.
A 63 advantage in the épée led MENS FENCING to a 1413 win over Penn February 11. WOMENS FENCING lost to the Quakers, 189.
Close losses to Dartmouth away (6356, February 6) and Columbia at home (6065 in overtime, February 14) dropped WOMENS BASKETBALL to 34 in the Ivy League. The Tigers beat Cornell February 13 behind Rebecca Brown 06s 25 points.
MENS VOLLEYBALL scored 30 wins over three teams, including the host, to win the St. Francis (Pennsylvania) Invitational February 1415.
March 5 marks the beginning of the BASEBALL season for Coach Scott Bradleys Tigers, who start their nonleague schedule at Old Dominion. Princeton, the defending Ivy champion, will look to build some pitching depth after losing five of its top seven starters. Pitcher Ross Ohlendorf 05, the Ivy League Rookie of the Year in 2002, looks to rebound after missing parts of last season with an injury. Catcher Tim Lahey 04 (11 home runs in 2003) and centerfielder B. J. Szymanski 05 (.330 career batting average) should drive the Tigers offense.
In SOFTBALL, outfielder Melissa Finley 05, last years Ivy League Player of the Year, returns to the diamond with hopes for a third consecutive Ivy championship and a third trip to the N.C.A.A. tournament. Seven returning starters in the field back All-Ivy pitcher Erin Snyder 06, who struck out 199 batters in 170 innings last year. Princeton faces challenges early in the season, with a trip to the Leadoff Classic in Columbus, Georgia, and a spring break journey to southern California. The Ivy schedule begins April 3 at Penn.