March 9, 2005: Sports
Sports Scores Updated weekly
By David Marcus ’92
Last year, the Princeton men’s lacrosse team surprised just about everyone but itself by reaching the NCAA semifinals before losing to Navy, 8—7. Strong performances by several freshmen and sophomores compensated for the loss of 11 of the 18 regulars on the 2003 team. Princeton finished 11—4, claiming a share of its 10th consecutive Ivy League title and raising expectations for this year.
“Last season, I think we overachieved,” said co-captain Jason Doneger ’05. “The freshmen are now sophomores, and those guys need to be great players for us to be good. I think they’re ready to step up. I really think this team has a chance to win a national championship.”
Head coach Bill Tierney agreed, pointing to his team’s talent and chemistry, but he quickly added one caveat. “We’ve got a big question mark with the loss of Ryan Boyle ’04,” he said. If the Tigers can find the right combination to replace the two-time, first-team All-American attackman, Tierney said, they can go farther than they did last May.
Boyle directed Princeton’s offense for four seasons and last year scored or assisted on 43 percent of Princeton’s 155 goals. Two recipients of Boyle’s assists, Doneger and Peter Trombino ’07, will return as starters on attack. Scott Sowanick ’07, a midfielder last year, will be the third starter. “We’ll play a different way, and we’ll have to find out what that way is,” Tierney said of his team’s post-Boyle offensive style. He’s hoping for help from three freshmen, Trip Cowin, Alex Haynie, and Bob Schneider, who were recruited as attackmen but likely will run in the midfield this year.
The trio will be part of a deep midfield corps. Honorable-mention All-American Drew Casino ’04 graduated, but Princeton returns most of its top midfielders, including Mac Bryson ’05, who scored three goals in the semifinal loss to Navy. “He can be as good as anyone,” Doneger said. “If Mac can run on that first midfield line and score 15 to 20 goals, that would be tremendous.” Whitney Hayes ’07 will join Bryson on the first midfield along with either Jim O’Brien ’06 or Peter Striebel ’08. On the second midfield line, Mike Biles ’07, Mike DeSantis ’07, and Mike Gaudio ’07 expect to see time.
The Tigers feel better than they have in years at the face-off position, Tierney said, with Ryan Schoenig ’06 returning and face-off specialist Alex Berg ’08 joining the team. Princeton also should be better on defense. Starters Oliver Barry ’05 and Tim Sullivan ’05 return along with John Bennett ’07, Zachary Jungers ’07, Will Presti ’07, Tony Vita ’06, and defensive midfielders Grant Hewit ’06 and Jared Keating ’05.
The most noteworthy addition to the group is Dan Cocoziello ’08, perhaps the best high school defenseman in the country last year. “Dan will be an immediate presence on the field,” said Doneger. “He’s fast, and when he’s on the ball, he understands when he can and cannot throw checks.” Cocoziello should find running mates in Zach Goldberg ’08 and Derek Sudan ’07, both speedy defensive midfielders who should allow Princeton to play a more aggressive style than it has in the past.
“With our freshmen and sophomores, we have some guys who can create transition [scoring chances] for us,” Doneger said. “In years past, we’d have some trouble clearing the ball. I think our defensive middies this year should help get us up and out and create some goals.”
Anchoring the defense will be goalie Dave Law ’06, last year’s starter, and Alex Hewit ’08, who will challenge for the starting spot.
Princeton opens its season against perennial powers Johns Hopkins, Virginia, and Syracuse in March before starting the Ivy League season at Yale April 2. Tierney expects the strongest Ivy challenger to be Cornell, which beat the Tigers last year to tie for the league title. The Tigers’ home schedule could extend into the postseason, since Princeton Stadium will be the site of two quarterfinal games this year. And if Tierney figures out a way to replace Boyle, his team could be headed down the road to Philadelphia on Memorial Day weekend for the Final Four at Lincoln Financial Field.
David Marcus ’92 is a frequent contributor to PAW.
Against Penn on Feb. 8, center Judson Wallace ’05 scored his 1,000th career point with a beautifully executed post move in the first half. He dribbled once from the baseline to the foul lane, pivoted with his back to the hoop, and slipped a right-handed layup past the outstretched arm of a defender. But Princeton fans at the Palestra that night will scarcely recall that basket, or any of Wallace’s game-high 21 points.
Instead, the image burned in their memories is that of Penn’s Tim Begley, legs splayed toward the sidelines as he launched a three-point attempt from the top of the key with a minute left in overtime. The shot banked into the basket, stamping an exclamation point on an improbable comeback for Penn, which had trailed by as many as 18 points and never led in regulation. The Quakers outscored Princeton 14—6 in overtime to win 70—62, and in the process virtually ended the Tigers’ chances for a return trip to the NCAA tournament.
A season that began with a promising 9—5 start in non-league games already had turned into a nightmare with an Ivy-opening defeat at home against Brown and consecutive road losses to Dartmouth and Harvard a week later. In the Penn game, Princeton seemed to right its ship, leading by 15 points at halftime and smothering the Quakers with a matchup zone defense. Coach Joe Scott ’87 said he had expected Penn to make a run late in the second half, but he also had expected his team to respond. “We just never stopped it,” he said.
The theme was a recurring one. At Dartmouth Feb. 4, Princeton led by nine with five minutes left, but the Big Green finished with flair, scoring 18 of the game’s last 19 points. The next night, Harvard turned a four-point deficit into a four-point lead in the last five minutes. On Feb. 11, days after the Penn loss, Cornell went on a 20—0 run midway through the second half and held on to beat the Tigers by eight. But the Penn game was Princeton’s biggest collapse, with an 18-point edge shrinking to zero in seven minutes. Seniors Andre Logan, Will Venable, and Wallace combined to turn the ball over seven times in that stretch.
Close finishes are nothing new for Princeton, which won eight Ivy games by single digits last year, including three in overtime. But the key baskets and defensive stops that once put the Tigers on top have been harder to come by this season. “Obviously we are struggling mightily [closing out games],” Scott said after the Penn game. “It’s hard to see the glimmer of light when you have these kinds of losses.”
Princeton finally snapped its four-game losing streak by beating Columbia Feb. 12, but the damage was already done, with Penn perched at the top of the league standings at 7—0 and the preseason Ivy-favorite Tigers in last place at 2—5, their worst Ivy start in 26 years.
Defense was expected to be Princeton’s hallmark under Scott, and in that respect, the Tigers have been true to form. Through Feb. 14, Princeton ranked second in the nation in points allowed, behind Scott’s old Air Force team, now coached by Chris Mooney ’94. But the slowdown Tigers also ranked second-worst among the 326 Division I teams in scoring offense,
generating 55.2 points per game, more than seven points below their season average last year.
Women’s squash player Claire Rein-Weston ’07 tracked down this return in her Feb. 12 match against Trinity’s Lynn Leong. Princeton, ranked fourth in the country, came within a match of upsetting No. 2 Trinity in the regular season finale. The visiting Bantams held on to win, 5--4, and Princeton finished the year 9--3 with losses to Yale, Harvard, and Trinity, the nation’s top three teams.
On Feb. 11, WOMEN’S HOCKEY trailed Cornell 5—3 on the road with two minutes remaining when Sarah Butsch ’06 sparked a dramatic comeback. Butsch scored twice in the final 1:26 and capped her performance with the game-winning goal in overtime. A tie at Colgate the following night moved Princeton into fifth place in the East Coast Athletic Conference.
MEN’S HOCKEY dropped to 6—17—2 on the season with losses to No. 5 Cornell and No. 12 Colgate Feb. 11 and 12.
With a win over Cornell Feb. 11 and a loss to Columbia Feb. 12, WOMEN’S BASKETBALL remained at .500 for the season (10—10). The Tigers were 2—5 in the first half of the Ivy League season.
WOMEN’S WATER POLO opened the season with a 4—0 sweep at the Princeton Invitational Feb. 12 and 13, beating Brown, Harvard, Marist, and Villanova. Elyse Colgan ’07 scored 10 goals to lead the Tigers.
WRESTLING broke a six-match losing streak Feb. 12, beating Franklin and Marshall 40—8 on the day the program celebrated its centennial. The Tigers won seven of the nine contested weight classes, with pins by Eric Marcotulli ’07 (141 pounds) and Charlie Wiggins ’05 (165 pounds).
MEN’S and WOMEN’S TRACK won the annual indoor H-Y-P meet Feb. 12 at Yale’s newly dedicated Frank Shorter Track. The men won nine events, including the 400-, 500-, and 800-meter runs, while the women dominated the distance races.
MEN’S SQUASH lost to Trinity 8—1 on Feb. 12. Yasser El Halaby ’06 beat Trinity’s Bernardo Samper 3—0 for the Tigers’ lone victory.
MEN’S FENCING beat Yale but dropped a 14—13 decision to Harvard at the annual H-Y-P meet Feb. 12. WOMEN’S FENCING also had split results, topping Yale 18—9 but falling to Harvard 19—8.