April 6, 2005: Sports
Holding her own
Sports Scores Updated weekly
In the second half of the men’s basketball team’s March 4 game against Harvard, the Crimson applied full-court defensive pressure, hoping to force turnovers and cut into the Tigers’ double-digit lead. Senior guard Will Venable split the defense on one possession and dribbled to the left corner on the offensive end, slowing down as if he were content to start the offense. But with a quick glance over his shoulder, Venable spied an open lane and drove to the basket for an easy layup.
From that moment forward, Princeton controlled the game, dissecting the defense with a series of backdoor layups (and one backdoor dunk) on its way to a 66—44 win, the Tigers’ most lopsided victory of the Ivy League season. But the dominance was fleeting. After scraping past Dartmouth for a 65—54 win the next night, Princeton trailed for all but two minutes of the season finale against Penn on March 8. The Quakers won 64—56 and handed the Tigers their first losing league record since the Ivy League’s inception in 1956.
First-year head coach Joe Scott ’87 could do little to veil his disappointment after the Penn loss. “I hope it sits there forever,” he said of the team’s 6—8 mark in Ivy games. “I hope it’s a reminder. I hope the record is pinned on the wall somewhere. ... We all have to learn from what happened this year.”
After losing five of their first six Ivy games, the Tigers showed modest improvement late in the season, but each triumph was paired with a setback. The Harvard and Dartmouth wins in March marked Princeton’s only weekend sweep; its longest winning streak — four games — ended in mid-December.
The season’s turning point came in early February when Princeton lost to Dartmouth, Harvard, and Penn in less than a week. Scott called it “a five-day stretch when the world caved in.” Venable saw it as a test of character. “It was like getting punched in the stomach and then getting punched in the stomach again,” he said. “But we were able to stand up and keep working hard.”
Climbing back to the top of the Ivy standings next year will require more work, especially with the loss of a senior class that led the Tigers to a 13—1 Ivy record and an NCAA tournament appearance in 2003—04. Co-captains Venable and center Judson Wallace ’05, who each reached the 1,000-point plateau this year, will be sorely missed, along with valuable reserves Mike Stephens ’05 and Andre Logan ’05.
Next year’s team likely will build around guard Scott Greenman ’06, who drained 54 percent of his three-point attempts in Ivy games, and forward Luke Owings ’07, an all-around contributor. Forward Noah Savage ’08, guard Max Schafer ’07, and center Harrison Schaen ’07, who is expected to return to the program after taking a year off from school, should play key roles.
After the Penn game, Wallace said he hopes the lessons of this year will pay off in the future. “As disappointing as it is to have our senior season be a learning experience needed to establish a program,” he said, “that’s what this season has come down to — learning what’s necessary to be good” under Scott’s system.
With the field at Class of 1952 Stadium ringed by snow banks, Whitney Hayes ’07 (number 3) and the Tigers opened the men’s lacrosse season against Johns Hopkins March 5. Scott Sowanick ’07 scored a career-high four goals, but Princeton lost 9—6 to the Blue Jays. Women’s lacrosse faced Johns Hopkins in the second game of the doubleheader, and Lindsay Biles ’05 scored four of the Tigers’ five second-half goals in a 9—6 Princeton win.
When the Princeton wrestling team graduated its only eligible contender in the 125-pound division, the lowest weight class for collegiate matches, an unlikely volunteer offered to take his place. But the choice was an easy one for Audrey Pang ’05, who had been training with the squad for three years.
“I love the team, and it’s a very close community,” she said. “I had a chance to contribute points when the spot opened up, so when the coach asked me about it, I took it.”
Pang, the first female student at Princeton ever placed permanently on the team’s competition roster, finished 2—10 for the season, with both wins coming by forfeit. She lost twice by decision and was pinned eight times. “I was expecting a little more,” she said. “It’s not a great record.”
But wrestling against women has been a different story. In 2002, Pang ranked fourth in the 112-pound class at the U.S. women’s nationals. The following year she missed several tournaments due to a broken collarbone, but rebounded to win fourth place in the 121-pound division at the 2004 women’s university nationals. The Toronto native also competed in the 2004 Canadian Olympic trials, falling short of a spot on the national team.
Pang’s transition to the men’s game proved more difficult than she had anticipated. While women traditionally wrestle freestyle, men’s wrestling uses a folk-style form that involves alternate rules and scoring systems. Men’s weight is distributed differently from women’s, changing the feel of certain maneuvers, and men generally have more upper-body strength, she said.
A few of Pang’s opponents brought their own reservations to the mat. “A couple of the guys came up to me and said they were really nervous,” she said. “I think they didn’t know where to put their hands, or they didn’t want to lose to a girl.”
Pang, an economics major, will continue wrestling after graduation at a club in New York where she has practiced for over a year. Taking it “step by step,” she hopes to keep improving, with the 2008 Olympic trials in mind.
By Brooke Robert Stoddard ’05
Yasser El Halaby ’06 captured his third consecutive national championship in MEN’S SQUASH, defeating Yale’s Julian Illingworth 9—6, 9—2, 9—1 in the final in Hanover, N.H., March 6. El Halaby, the first men’s player to win three national titles in his first three years of college squash, joins the late Stephen Vehslage ’61 on the short list of three-time winners. Vincent Yu ’07 won the Malloy Trophy as the champion of the tournament’s B bracket.
Jake Butler ’06 of the WRESTLING team placed fourth in the 197-pound weight class of the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association meet March 5 and was rewarded with an at-large bid to the NCAA championships.
In WOMEN’S BASKETBALL, Meagan Cowher ’08 was named the Ivy League Rookie of the Year after finishing the season third in the league in field goal percentage and second on the Princeton team in scoring.
Harvard edged MEN’S SWIMMING in the Eastern Intercollegiate Swimming League championships March 5. Will Reinhardt ’06 won the 100-yard freestyle.
WOMEN’S WATER POLO improved to 13—4 with a four-game sweep in Salem, W.Va., March 4 and 5. Princeton beat host Salem International (twice), Maryland, and Bucknell.
BASEBALL began the season 0—5, dropping a doubleheader at Richmond March 6 and a three-game series at William and Mary March 11—13. Designated hitter Ryan Eldridge ’06 smacked two home runs in the first game, and basketball standout Will Venable ’05 rejoined the team for the William and Mary trip, picking up six hits in his first nine at-bats.
Pitchers Kristen Schaus ’08, Erin Snyder ’06, and Calli Varner ’07 combined to pitch four shutouts in SOFTBALL’s first four games at the East Carolina Pirate Clash March 4—6. In the tournament final, Princeton lost to Elon, 5—1. The Tigers won three and lost two at the National Invitational Softball Tournament in San Jose, Calif., March 11—13.