November 3, 2004: Sports
Sports Scores Updated weekly
With three Ivy League titles and five postseason appearances in the last five seasons, Princeton women’s soccer has fielded some impressive teams. This year’s Tigers may prove to be the best yet. They won 10 of their first 11 games, allowing just four goals, and climbed as high as 11th in the national rankings. In Ivy games, Princeton has been positively dominant, outscoring Yale, Dartmouth, and Brown 9—1 in its first three matches.
Early wins against fifth-ranked Texas A&M (Sept. 3), Villanova (Sept. 10), and UNC-Greensboro (Sept. 17) added to Princeton’s growing national profile, but coach Julie Shackford says her biggest challenge is getting her team to understand its potential and be more assertive on the field. “There’s no doubt that talent-wise, we can play with anyone in the country,” she says. “It’s just a matter of them finding their mentality. A lot of times, they wait for the game to come to them.”
When tested, the Tigers have responded. Against defending Ivy champion Dartmouth Oct. 2, Princeton led 2—0 late in the second half when the Big Green trimmed the lead to 2—1. Emily Behncke ’06 replied less than two minutes later, scoring her second goal of the game. Four minutes after that, Behncke fed an assist to Meghan Farrell ’07, who sealed the 4—1 win.
Princeton’s defense has also played well in tight spots. The Tigers took a 1—0 lead late in the first half against Rutgers Oct. 5 and held that margin for the rest of the game, standing strong against a relentless and physical Scarlet Knights front line that included All-American Carli Lloyd. The defense, Shackford says, has been the mainstay for Princeton in the last six years, and this season is no exception. Opponents have averaged just 6.5 shots per game, and goalkeepers Emily Vogelzang ’06 and Madeline Jackson ’06 have not allowed more than one goal in any game.
Princeton’s potent offense consists primarily of the same front line from 2003. Forward Esmeralda Negron ’05, who played with the U.S. Under-21 National Team last summer, leads the team in scoring with seven goals and eight assists. Behncke is close behind with five goals and three assists. After tying a school record with 13 goals last year, Negron has drawn additional attention from defenders, forcing her to find open teammates. “She’s just marked so tightly and running into double- and triple-teams,” Shackford says. “You’re either going to lose the ball, or you have to give it up, and she’s given it up.”
The biggest change for the Tigers has come in the midfield, where they added Diana Matheson ’08, a touted recruit who deferred for a year to play for Canada in the Women’s World Cup and the Olympic qualifying tournament. Despite her 5'1" frame, the diminutive freshman is “a level above” her competition, Shackford says. Showing an uncanny knack for being in the right place at the right time, Matheson has helped Princeton control the possession, setting up scoring opportunities. “She’s the one who connects everything,” Shackford says. “[She has] outstanding vision, outstanding distributing skills, and she also has the ability to finish. I think a lot of her dirty work [passing and defending in the midfield] has not allowed her to get involved as much in the attack as we’d like.”
The combination of explosive offense and steady defense should help the Tigers if they make an expected return to the College Cup. In five appearances at the 64-team NCAA championship of women’s soccer, Princeton has reached the second round just once, in 2001. Negron, who was a freshman on that team, believes the trend is about to change. “This team has all the potential in the world,” she says. “I think we can go really far in the tournament.”
Men’s soccer’s Darren Spicer ’06 completed this move
with a shot past two defenders and the goalie for the game-winning goal
against Brown Oct. 8. Princeton beat the defending Ivy League champion
Bears 3–2 at Lourie-Love Field, improving to 5–2–3 and
1–0–1 in Ivy play. Spicer scored eight goals in the team’s
first 10 games, doubling his team-leading total from last season.
In Princeton’s first four football games this season, linebacker Zak Keasey ’05 and his defensive teammates began to see a trend. The Tigers had been strong against the pass, allowing 140 yards per game, but stopping the run was a different story. “We’re kind of small up front, so teams are going to try and see if they can pound the ball on us,” Keasey said. “Once we shut that down, we force teams to be one-dimensional, and that’s what we want.”
Against Brown on Oct. 16, Princeton faced its biggest test to date. Brown’s Nick Hartigan, who ran for 156 yards against the Tigers in 2003, entered the game ranked sixth in the country with 138.5 rushing yards per game. Princeton held strong on defense, limiting Hartigan to just 66 yards on 24 carries. Keasey made 14 tackles, including two for losses, and Tigers quarterback Matt Verbit ’05 led a steady offensive effort as Princeton won 24—10, improving to 4—1 for the season.
Verbit moved into second place among Princeton’s all-time passing leaders during one of the most accurate performances of his career (13-for-15, 147 yards, and one touchdown). In the fourth quarter, he faked a handoff to Jon Veach ’05, drawing in the run defense, and delivered a deep arching pass to Brian Shields ’07, who sprinted past a Brown cornerback for a 50-yard touchdown. The completion, and the ensuing extra point, gave Princeton a commanding 14-point lead.
For the Tigers, the strong finish was a welcome change from their previous game. In Hamilton, N.Y., Princeton led 20th-ranked Colgate 26—14 with six minutes remaining, but two key penalties in the final minutes allowed the Raiders to surge ahead for a 29—26 victory. Against Brown, the Tigers did not commit a single penalty, a “remarkable” feat, according to coach Roger Hughes. “It shows the kind of focus we had this week,” he said after the game, “and it shows the commitment our kids have to making themselves better.”
In step with his team’s mindset of controlled aggression, Hughes coached boldly in the fourth quarter, electing to run on fourth-and-one from the two-yard line with the score tied, instead of settling for a field goal. “The thought of a field goal did not really cross my mind,” Hughes said. “I thought we could knock them off the ball.” The offensive line paved the way for tailback Branden Benson ’05, who carried the ball in for a touchdown.
With its win over Brown, Princeton remained in a three-way tie with Harvard and Penn at the top of the Ivy League standings.
WOMEN’S GOLF edged the University of Miami by six strokes to win the Pat Bradley Invitational at the Doral Golf Resort and Spa Oct. 8—10. Avery Kiser ’05, who placed second individually, shot rounds of 71, 71, and 75 on Doral’s Blue Course, a water-filled layout dubbed “the blue monster” by PGA Tour professionals. MEN’S GOLF placed third in a field of six teams at the James Madison Invitational Oct. 9—10.
Cack Ferrell ’06 ran a record time of 17:12 on the five-kilometer Princeton Battlefield course as WOMEN’S CROSS COUNTRY won the annual Harvard-Yale-Princeton meet Oct. 2. In MEN’S CROSS COUNTRY, Austin Smith ’05 placed sixth in a field of nearly 200 runners at the Notre Dame Invitational Oct. 1. Princeton finished 11th in the 24-team event.
MEN’S TENNIS beat Yale and Boston College before falling to top-seeded Harvard in the semifinals at the ECAC Invitational Oct. 1—3. In WOMEN’S TENNIS, the doubles team of Alison Hashmall ’06 and Jessica Siebel ’06 won two matches in the opening rounds of the ITA All-American Invitational in Los Angeles Oct. 2.
Lauren Grumet ’06 led WOMEN’S VOLLEYBALL with 20 kills in a five-game win over Yale Oct. 9. The Tigers, who opened the Ivy League season with a 3—1 victory at Penn Oct. 1, improved to 11—4 and 2—1 in the Ivy.
MEN’S WATER POLO won two and lost three on its road trip to California Oct. 1—3. The Tigers beat Air Force and UC—Davis but lost close games to UC—Santa Barbara and Long Beach State. Princeton also fell at top-ranked Stanford, 15—4, after giving up eight goals in the opening quarter.
FIELD HOCKEY defeated Boston University 5—4 on Oct. 1 and dropped one-goal games to two nationally ranked teams, No. 11 Richmond Oct. 3 and No. 18 Virginia Oct. 10.
MEN’S BASKETBALL opens the 2004—05 season at the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic Nov. 11. The Tigers play Bucknell at Syracuse in the first round. If they win they will face the winner of Syracuse vs. Northern Colorado in round two Nov. 12. Madison Square Garden will host the tournament’s semifinals and final Nov. 18 and 19.