July 7, 2004: Sports
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in the spotlight
By David Marcus ’92
When coach Bill Tierney called time-out with 21 seconds left in his team’s N.C.A.A. men’s lacrosse semifinal game against Navy May 29, the circumstances looked familiar. In the quarterfinals a week earlier, the Tigers had trailed the University of Maryland 8—6 late in the fourth quarter — before Ryan Boyle ’04 scored two goals to send the game into overtime and assisted on the goal, by Peter Trombino ’07, that gave Princeton a berth in the Final Four. Against Navy, Princeton again gave the ball to Boyle in an effort to tie an 8—7 game and force overtime.
This time, though Boyle started with the ball and Trombino took the last shot, the outcome proved less rewarding. Navy goalie Matt Russell made the save, ending a Princeton season in which the Tigers accomplished more than just about anyone had expected when practice began in February, including an 11—4 record and a share of their 10th straight Ivy League title.
“We overachieved, we persevered, and we lost to a better lacrosse team today,” Tierney said after the semifinal, played at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore before a crowd of 46,923, the largest ever for an N.C.A.A. lacrosse game. “I’ve been less proud of teams that have won the championship.”
The Midshipmen won more faceoffs, took more shots, and picked up more ground balls than the Tigers, who combated superior athleticism with characteristic resourcefulness. With Navy clogging up the area around the goal in an effort to shut down Jason Doneger ’05, Princeton’s leading goal scorer, the Tigers resorted to outside shooting.
Midfielder Mac Bryson ’05 scored three goals, half his output for the team’s first 14 games, and Drew Casino ’04 added two goals to finish with 23 for the year. Princeton had trouble clearing the ball out of its defensive end all day, but defenseman Tim Sullivan ’05 took advantage of a Navy lapse to clear the ball and feed Boyle for a goal that tied the game at 5—5 early in the third quarter. Boyle also had three assists, capping a season in which his 23 goals and 44 assists earned him first-team All-America and Ivy League Player of the Year honors, both for the second time.
Despite the loss, the Tigers took pride in their effort. A year after the senior-laden 2003 squad was blitzed by Syracuse 15—5 in the N.C.A.A. quarterfinals, lacrosse pundits’ preseason predictions of Princeton’s demise proved premature, thanks to a group of freshmen whose energy matched their talent. “The real turning point came in September, when these young men came on campus,” Tierney said. “The seniors got on board with the enthusiasm of the younger guys.”
The most significant newcomer was Trombino, who scored 24 goals and 11 assists at attack and was chosen as the Ivy League’s Rookie of the Year. Whitney Hayes ’07 and Scott Sowanick ’07 also emerged as offensive threats, running first midfield with Casino and finishing fifth and sixth on the team in scoring, respectively.
On the defensive end of the field, Princeton improved dramatically during the year. Going into the season, Tierney believed that he had to adjust his defense in response to other teams’ increasing success against it in recent years. His instinct proved correct; the Tigers allowed an average of 9.8 goals in their first six games, but only seven goals a game in the season’s last nine games.
That improvement, combined with Princeton’s youth, should prove valuable in 2005. “We have a lot coming back,” says Bryson, a member of next year’s senior class, “and I think we’ll be back [in the Final Four] next year.”
David Marcus ’92 writes frequently for PAW.
Strong to the finish
Pitcher Ross Ohlendorf ’05, right, allowed two runs and struck out six batters in 82/3 innings as Princeton upset host Virginia 4–2 in the opening round of the N.C.A.A. regional tournament at Charlottesville June 5.
“I had never pitched over seven innings before in my life,” Ohlendorf said after the game, “but it was such a big situation I couldn’t get tired.” Brian Kappel ’05 pitched to one batter in relief, inducing a pop out. First baseman Ryan Reich ’04 drove in three runs in the game, which was just the third N.C.A.A. tournament win in Princeton history. The Tigers fell to Vanderbilt 11—1 in the second round and were eliminated after losing a rematch against Virginia June 6.
On May 23, in front of 4,922 fans at Princeton Stadium, the undefeated women’s lacrosse team competed for a third consecutive national championship. And when Elizabeth Pillion ’05 slashed through the Virginia defense to net the game’s first goal on a perfectly timed pass from Jamie Sundheim ’06, the Tigers looked ready to seize the title.
But the ephemeral promise of perfection gave way to an overwhelming Virginia attack. The Cavaliers scored five unanswered goals in an 11-minute span, taking a commanding 5—1 halftime lead. Princeton had chances to respond, but Virginia goalkeeper Andrea Pfeiffer blocked shots from all angles en route to a career-high 19 saves and the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award. “We gave her confidence by not finishing early on,” said Theresa Sherry ’04. In the 2003 title game, Sherry had three goals against Pfeiffer, including the game winner. This year, she was held scoreless on eight attempts.
Princeton cut into the lead twice in the second half, but the Cavaliers answered each time, eventually erupting with a four-goal burst to win 10—4. Princeton converted a season-low 11.2 percent of its 35 shots in the game. “That’s not a typical day for us, and I think that’s what made the difference,” coach Chris Sailer said. “Normally, if we get 35 shots, we’re doing pretty well.” Coming into the game, the Tigers had netted 42.2 percent of their shots.
Despite an uncharacteristic finish, Princeton cemented its place as one of the program’s most accomplished teams, posting the first undefeated regular season in school history, a program-best 28-game winning streak, a 10th consecutive Ivy League title, and a fifth straight Final Four appearance.
New stars seemed to emerge in each game, especially late in the year. Against Maryland April 28, Tara Hardiman ’04 scored the game-winning goal in overtime to keep the unbeaten streak alive. In the season finale against Brown May 1, Lindsey Biles ’05 had four of her team-high 55 goals to edge the Bears 5—4. In the N.C.A.A. tournament, Pillion notched three goals and an assist in the first half of a round-one runaway win over Colgate May 13, and Sundheim scored her only goal of the tournament in overtime to beat Dartmouth 6—5 in the quarterfinals. With three goals, Sherry led a cast of seven goal scorers in the 11—3 semifinal win over Vanderbilt May 21. “We have amazing balance,” Sherry said after that game. “Every single person on the team has a competitive personality and great drive on the field.”
Sailer, who watched her Tigers carry the nation’s top ranking from the preseason to the postseason, credited the team for staying focused throughout its challenging schedule. “We talk all year long about the journey, and it would have been great to get to a different destination,” Sailer said. “But it’s been a great year.”
In CREW, three Princeton boats reached the varsity eight grand finals at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships June 5. The women’s lightweights finished second, the men’s lightweights were third, and the men’s heavyweights placed fifth. The women’s open varsity eight finished fourth in the N.C.A.A. Championships May 30.
In WOMEN’S TRACK AND FIELD, Chelo Canino ’04 set an N.C.A.A. East Region meet record in the pole vault May 29, clearing 13 feet, 5.75 inches to advance to the N.C.A.A. Championships. Team-mates Emily Kroshus ’04 and Meredith Lambert ’06 also qualified for the national meet in the 10,000-meter run. Josh McCaughey ’04 led the MEN’S TRACK AND FIELD contingent at the East Region meet, finishing fourth in the hammer throw.
Kathy Sell was selected as the new head coach of WOMEN’S TENNIS. A former All-American at Duke University, Sell was an assistant coach at the University of Oregon.
Princeton returned to national prominence in WOMEN’S RUGBY, reaching the final game at the U.S.A. Rugby College Championships May 1. The Tigers, seeded 15th in the 16-team field, upset Illinois, Massachusetts, and Virginia before falling to Penn State in the championship.
Five Tigers were chosen in the MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL draft June 7—8. B. J. Szymanski ’05 (Cincinnati Reds, round two), Ross Ohlendorf ’05 (Arizona Diamondbacks, round four), Will Venable ’05 (Baltimore Orioles, round 15), Steve Young ’04 (Detroit Tigers, round 16), and Tim Lahey ’04 (Minnesota Twins, round 20) each played key roles on this year’s Ivy League Championship team.
The Rochester Rattlers selected Ryan Boyle ’04 as the second pick in the 2004 MAJOR LEAGUE LACROSSE draft June 3. Former teammate Ryan Mollett ’01 is in his fourth season as a defenseman for the Rattlers.
JEFF HALPERN ’99 will represent the U.S. in the World Cup of Hockey August 30-September 14. Halpern, a center for the Washington Capitals, played for the U.S. team at the World Championships in 2000 and 2001.
The Buffalo Bills hired MARC ROSS ’95 to be the team’s national college scout. Ross, a former All-Ivy wide receiver, spent seven years scouting for the Philadelphia Eagles.
TORA HARRIS ’02 is scheduled to compete in the high jump at the U.S. Olympic team trials for track and field July 15—18. Harris tied for second in the event at the U.S. Indoor Championships in February.