September 14, 2005: Sports
Sports Scores Updated weekly
Head football coach Roger Hughes has a knack for thinking positive. But when his entire offensive backfield graduated last May, leaving no experienced players to fill the vacancies, even Hughes admitted he was worried about the Tigers’ lineup.
“It’s both scary and fun, because you have kids who have different talents,” he said. “It’s a little scary when you come in with an inexperienced quarterback and an inexperienced tailback, but I do think we’ve got some talented kids there. ... Hopefully, by the time we get into league play, it’s really going to show.”
Princeton has room to improve after struggling in close games late last season. The Tigers started 4–1 but finished 5–5, tying for fourth in the Ivy League. Hughes is 19–30 in his five years at Princeton, and his future may depend on how his young team performs this year.
The Tigers will try to build around the defense, which returns seven starters, including All-Ivy cornerback Jay McCareins ’06 and linebacker Justin Stull ’06, a two-year captain described by Hughes as the “heart and soul” of the team. On offense, the line is the Tigers’ most experienced group in the last five years, which could make the transition easier for the new starters in the backfield.
Hughes’ biggest challenge is finding a quarterback. Sophomores Bill Foran and Greg Mroz entered preseason camp as the top contenders in a four-man competition for the starting spot. Foran, who deferred admission in 2003 and spent a season as a redshirt freshman at Purdue, has speed and elusiveness, which he showed in occasional duty as a wide receiver last year. Mroz has a strong arm and a signal-calling pedigree that includes brothers David ’03, a former Tigers backup quarterback, and Jeff, the starting quarterback and captain at Yale this season. Hughes is not opposed to rotating two quarterbacks, but he would prefer to identify a clear starter.
In the race for running back, Hughes is more flexible. With more than a half-dozen players vying for carries, and no clear leader, a backfield-by-committee is virtually guaranteed. The Tigers do not have anyone who is ready to carry the ball 25 times per game, but they do have several talented options, including Rob Toresco ’08, who can play tailback or fullback, and Cleo Kirkland ’07, whose only two carries last year came late in the loss to Harvard. Derek Brooks ’08 and Jonathan Carroll ’08 are listed behind Kirkland on the depth chart, and Hughes said three freshmen could find their way into the mix.
Wide receiver Greg Fields ’06 likely will carry the ball as well on end-around and reverse plays. Between runs, receptions, and punt returns, Fields averaged a 12-yard gain each time he touched the ball last year. Brian Brigham ’07, who fought through injuries as a sophomore, will join Fields as a top receiving target, and Hughes will look for tight end Jon Dekker ’06 to be more productive in the short passing game to help the Tigers improve their 26.4 percent conversion rate on third downs (second-worst in the league).
On defense, linebackers Stull, Abi Fadeyi ’06, and Alan Borelli ’06 lead a seasoned unit that ranked third in the league in total defense last year. Rob Holuba ’06 should fill the fourth linebacker slot in Princeton’s 3–4 formation. On the line, defensive end James Williams ’06 will be joined by two new starters, but most of the top candidates saw significant playing time in the Tigers’ seven-man rotation last season. The one exception is 6-foot-1-inch, 300-pound nose guard Paul Daou ’06, a former offensive guard who could find his way into the lineup as a run-stopper.
The cornerbacks, McCareins and J.J. Artis ’07, have a chance to be among the league’s best, according to Hughes. Artis, who started 15 games in his first two seasons, was hampered by a shoulder injury last year. McCareins was called into double duty after a rash of injuries to Princeton’s wide receivers. “He’s obviously a great athlete,” Hughes said of McCareins. “My hope is not to have to play him [on offense] because I thought that toward the end of the year, the wear and tear got to him, and I thought his defensive play leveled off.”
Defense should keep Princeton in close games early in the season, as the offense finds its legs, but the Tigers will need to be sharp by midseason. In a four-week span, they play road games against Brown, Harvard, and Penn, the league’s top three teams according to the Ivy League preseason media poll.
Last year, a four-game losing streak in the second half of the season buried Princeton’s championship hopes, and Hughes’ job security became a hot topic in the local press. According to Stull, the defensive captain, the situation was an added weight on the struggling team. “Obviously, we read the papers, and we heard the rumors going around,” Stull said. “It’s just a huge distraction. Hopefully, we’ll play well enough this season that it’s not even an issue.”
Training started early for Princeton football this season. Each weekday morning in the summer, about 30 players converged on the weight room at Princeton Stadium for a 6:30 lifting session. About an hour later, they filed out to the practice field for sprints before hitting the showers and heading to work at jobs and internships in the Princeton area. After work, several players returned to the field for passing drills and seven-on-seven scrimmages.
For the last few years, the Tigers, like most college football teams, have had a growing contingent of players on campus in the summer months. The players run the show, since under NCAA and Ivy League rules, coaches cannot attend or supervise the voluntary summer sessions. But the experience, players said, carries over into the season.
“You get used to pushing each other,” said captain Justin Stull ’06, “so that when camp rolls around, you don’t have a bunch of people who are quiet toward one another. They’re used to motivating, used to getting in someone’s ear if they’re not working hard enough.”
Summer practices are particularly valuable for underclassmen looking to step into the starting lineup. Princeton’s top contenders for the open spots at quarterback, running back, and wide receiver were on campus during the summer, working on timing in the passing game.
Off the field, there was still time for less ambitious summer pursuits – Stull took up the guitar, and fellow linebacker Rob Holuba ’06 learned to play along on the harmonica – but football remained the focus. By the end of July, Holuba was longing for preseason camp, when the players would finally strap on their pads and start hitting.
“Summer’s great,” Holuba said, “[but] you can only train for so long.”
Sept. 17 at Lafayette 1 p.m.
Sept. 24 SAN DIEGO 1 p.m.
Oct. 1 COLUMBIA 1 p.m.
Oct. 8 COLGATE 1 p.m.
Oct. 15 at Brown 1 p.m.
Oct. 22 at Harvard 12:30 p.m.
Oct. 29 CORNELL 12 p.m.
Nov. 5 at Penn 12 p.m.
Nov. 12 YALE 1 p.m.
Nov. 19 at Dartmouth 12 p.m.
For Dustin Urban ’07, the road back to Princeton from summer recess often was not a road at all. Urban, a professional freestyle kayaker, made his way from the rapids of Colorado and British Columbia to a scenic stretch on the Ottawa River and a standing wave on the St. Lawrence River near Montreal. He paddled from island to island off the coast of his home state of Maine before finally packing his bags to head back to New Jersey.
Along the way, friends from Princeton checked in to hear about his latest adventures, and Urban was happy to relay the news. “I definitely hear from people who are in cubicles everyday,” he said in July, “and I don’t envy them.”
Urban, who has been paddling since childhood, has competed for three seasons as a professional in the burgeoning sport of freestyle kayaking. In freestyle events, also called kayak rodeos, competitors perform gravity-defying flips, spins, and rolls in maneuverable, 6-foot-long boats, using the contours of standing waves and breaking waves, or “holes,” to power their maneuvers. The goal, Urban said, is to perform as many difficult tricks as possible in a 45-second run. Judges determine the winner using an evolving list of tricks and point values.
In addition to the standard freestyle events, Urban has excelled in two related sports: creek boating, which is contested on Class V rapids, and squirtboating, which uses small, surfboard-like kayaks that can maneuver under the water as well as on top of it.
Urban won the squirtboat competition at the 2005 World Canoe Freestyle Championships in Sydney, Australia, and he has attempted to duplicate some of the event’s distinctive tricks in a freestyle boat, including one move he calls the “flying fish.” Using the boat’s buoyancy to make it pop out of a wave, in the same way that a submerged basketball pops up when held underwater, Urban twists his body and tries to complete a barrel roll as the boat leaps into the air. “I haven’t quite perfected it yet,” he admitted.
Using his established repertoire, Urban had a successful season on the water, including a third-place finish at the Teva Mountain Games in Vail, Colo., broadcast nationally on the Outdoor Life Network. The purses for kayaking events are modest by professional sports standards, but endorsement deals can make up the difference. Teva, which supplies Urban’s boats and shoes, provided an SUV for him to use during the summer.
With few rapids available near central New Jersey, Urban stays in shape by cross training during the academic year. He also finds time to paddle in calmer waters, teaching a beginning kayak course for Outdoor Action in the pool at Dillon Gymnasium.
MEN’S and WOMEN’S FENCING coach Michel Sebastiani announced his plans to retire at the end of the 2005–06 season, his 25th at Princeton. Sebastiani’s teams have combined to win nine Ivy League championships and six Intercollegiate Fencing Association national championships. He also has coached four NCAA individual champions.
In other fencing news, Ben Solomon ’06 won the men’s epee at the 2005 U.S. National Championships in Sacramento, Calif., July 1–10. Fellow Princetonian Maya Lawrence ’02 captured first place in the women’s epee.
In June, Greg Hughes ’96 was chosen as head coach of MEN’S LIGHTWEIGHT CREW. Hughes, who won two national championships with the varsity lightweights as an undergraduate, coached Princeton’s heavyweight freshman team for the last eight seasons. Marty Crotty ’98 will take over as coach of the heavyweight freshmen.
Princeton finished the 2004–05 athletic season ranked 42nd in the DIRECTORS’ CUP standings, edging Harvard to lead all nonscholarship schools for the 10th time in 11 years. Stanford won the top prize, presented by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics, earning recognition as the nation’s most successful Division I program.
USA Hockey invited former WOMEN’S HOCKEY standouts Megan Van Beusekom ’04 and Gretchen Anderson ’04 and current forward Liz Keady ’07 to try out for the 2006 U.S. Olympic team. Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal ’92 was chosen for the coaching staff at the selection workouts in Lake Placid, N.Y., Aug. 18–25.
WOMEN’S LACROSSE alumnae Crista Samaras ’99 and Rachael Becker ’03 helped the United States win silver at the International Federation of Women’s Lacrosse Associations World Cup June 23–July 2. Samaras scored 12 goals in the tournament.
Annika Welander ’08 of the WOMEN’S GOLF
team shot a tournament-record 9-under-par 207 over 54 holes to win the
Illinois Women’s Open July 21–23.