April 21, 2004: Sports
Sports Web Exclusives! P-nut Gallery column
as they go
By David Marcus ’92
The graduation of 11 key players meant that Princeton’s men’s lacrosse team began its season with uncertainty. Despite a 3—2 start and the emergence of several promising young players, an upset-ridden first month of the season has set the Tigers up for more uncertainty – and pressure – in April and May.
“If you’d have said a month ago, ‘you’re going to be 3—2,’ I would have taken it, because that would have meant that we’d have beaten either the University of Virginia, Hopkins, or Syracuse,” said coach Bill Tierney of his team’s stiff March competition. But because defending national champion Virginia started the season with four losses in their first five games, the Tigers’ 8—7 win in Charlottesville March 13 was not the breakthrough it might have been. The other two wins, over less-touted Quinnipiac and Hofstra, mean the Tigers probably will have to win the Ivy League to get a bid to the N.C.A.A. playoffs.
“In one regard, they’ve been through the fire,” Tierney said of the team’s first five games. But, he added, “We have more pressure now on us than we had in the last four or five weeks. We cannot lose another lacrosse game.” The coach’s ambivalence about the start also stemmed from a 14—12 loss to Syracuse March 27. The Tigers led 7—2 with less than four minutes left in the second quarter but let the Orangemen back into the game by allowing two goals late in the first half. Syracuse won 12 of 16 faceoffs in the second half, allowing it to control the ball and wear down Princeton’s defense.
The Tigers’ performance was a major improvement from their 14—5 loss at Johns Hopkins March 6. Nevertheless, Tierney said that his comments to the team after the Syracuse loss were
“bipolar.” “I found myself wavering between telling how proud I was of them and how stupid they were at times in the second half,” he said. “I had to say to them, it’s not good enough to accept a good effort, because we could have won, and we should have won. I’m not a real believer that you learn from losses. I think you learn from wins.”
Princeton’s most valuable lesson in that regard came at Virginia, where the Tigers had not won since 1994. In the February 28 season opener against Quinnipiac and the next week at Johns Hopkins, goalies David Law ’06 and Matt Larkin ’05 split time. Law played the entire game against Virginia, making 15 saves and preserving the win with a stop in the final seconds. He made 11 saves against Hofstra and finished with 10 against Syracuse, playing very well in the first half before succumbing to the pressure of the nation’s best offense in the second.
The Virginia win also marked the emergence of several offensive threats for the Tigers. Going into the year, starting attackmen Ryan Boyle ’04 and Jason Doneger ’05 were expected to lead the offense, and they have, with Boyle scoring seven goals and assisting on 11 others and Doneger notching 14 goals and an assist. At Virginia, the duo combined for two goals, while midfielders Drew Casino ’04 and Mac Bryson ’05 each scored twice. Starting attackman Peter Trombino ’07 scored a goal and two assists, and Whitney Hayes ’07 added a goal.
Of the several freshmen seeing substantial playing time, Hayes has been “the most pleasant surprise,” Tierney said, adding that Trombino, starting midfielder Scott Sowanick ’07, and defenseman Zachary Jungers ’07 had also been impressive. They and their teammates now turn to the Ivy League, which is as balanced as it’s been since the late 1980s. And though Tierney does not believe in moral victories, his team did learn a critical lesson from the Syracuse game. “If they do things the way they know how,” he says, “we can get a good result.”
David Marcus ’92 writes frequently for PAW.
chases another N.C.A.A. berth
February softball practices in the underground caverns of Jadwin Gym are the antithesis of “spring training.” There is no sunshine, no grass, no fresh spring air. But this year, Coach Maureen Barron ’97’s team barely seemed to notice. The Tigers eagerly counted down the days to February 27, the opening day of the prestigious Leadoff Classic in Columbus, Georgia, where they were slated to play No. 18 Arizona State and No. 20 South Carolina, the team that helped bounce Princeton from last year’s N.C.A.A. regional tournament. “We were fired up,” Barron says. “We knew we had to play well to win.”
Their fire showed in pitcher Erin Snyder ’06’s fastball as she allowed just five hits to Arizona State, helping Princeton to a 3—1 opening win. After a 6—0 loss to South Carolina, Snyder entered the pitcher’s circle again and beat Fresno State 1—0 with a three-hitter February 28. She gave up two hits to California, the nation’s No. 3 team, in a 2—0 loss February 29 and continued to impress during the Tigers’ up-and-down spring break trip to California, which included a 3—2 win over No. 13 Pacific March 17.
Heading into the Ivy schedule, the nothing-to-lose Tigers shifted gears. After two straight league titles, left fielder Wendy Bingham ’04 says, they need to stay sharp to fend off eager challengers Cornell, Harvard, and Yale. “It’s a different sort of mentality, because all of a sudden, we’re the top dog,” Bingham says. “The pressure is all on us.” She expects great things from the team she calls the best in her four seasons.
The difference this year is depth, which the Tigers have despite a roster of just 16 players. Snyder, the pitching ace, has developed a screwball and a changeup to complement her fastball. On the days when she does not pitch, the team relies on the capable arms of Amelia Runyan ’07, Calli Varner ’07, and the multitalented Melissa Finley ’05, last season’s Ivy League Player of the Year.
Leadoff hitter Kristin Lueke ’05 and Bingham, the team’s most improved hitter, have given the Tigers base runners to drive home, but during a slump that began at the end of spring break, they were shut out five times in seven games. A seven-run outburst against Boston University March 27 revived the offense, and Finley says that if the Tigers “control the controllables,” they have a good chance at their third straight trip to the N.C.A.A.s. As their early games showed, the Tigers are capable of competing with the top teams in May. “If we play our game,” Finley says, “we can beat anyone.”
WOMEN’S LACROSSE swept its first seven opponents, including four top-10 teams, to remain on top of the national polls. Theresa Sherry ’04 scored three goals, all in the second half, as the two-time defending N.C.A.A. champs beat No. 2 Georgetown 9—7 March 26. Sherry and Lindsey Biles ’05 lead the Tigers in goals with 18 each. Remaining tests include home games against No. 11 Dartmouth (April 24) and No. 8 Maryland (April 28).
Centerfielder B. J. Szymanski ’05 hammered seven hits as BASEBALL won three games in a four-game set against Stony Brook March 27—28. Szymanski, who also plays wide receiver for the football team, leads the Tigers in almost all offensive categories, including batting average, runs batted in, home runs, doubles, triples, and stolen bases.
The women’s lightweight CREW opened the spring with wins over Harvard, Georgetown, and Stanford at the Windermere College Classic March 27—28, continuing a winning streak that dates back to 2002. The men’s heavyweight crew beat Navy and Yale before losing to California.
WOMEN’S WATER POLO won five straight contests March 25—28 to improve its season record to 16—6 heading into the E.C.A.C. Championships.
Meir Hasbani ’07 of the MEN’S SWIMMING team placed 22nd in the 200-meter butterfly and 27th in the 400-meter individual medley at the N.C.A.A. Championships March 26—28. Will Reinhardt ’06 also represented the Tigers, swimming in two freestyle events.
In MEN’S TENNIS, Darius Craton ’06 won in both singles and doubles (with partner David Gopstein ’05) as the Tigers routed Rutgers 7—0 March 27. WOMEN’S TENNIS won back-to-back matches against Rutgers March 24 and Temple March 27.