November 16, 2005: Sports
Sports Scores Updated weekly
Overtime provided second chances in football’s Oct. 29 game against Cornell, and Princeton capitalized. Cornerback Tim Strickland ’07, who was beaten on a 41-yard completion that set up a Cornell touchdown in the third quarter, intercepted a pass to stop the Big Red in the first overtime possession. Minutes later, Derek Javarone ’06, who missed a field goal late in the first half, booted a 35-yard attempt straight and true, lifting the Tigers to a 20–17 win.
For the sixth time in Princeton’s seven games, the outcome was decided by less than a touchdown. The Tigers improved to 5–2 and 3–1 in the Ivy League, joining Brown, Penn, and Yale in a four-way tie for first place in the Ivy standings.
Princeton jumped to a 14–0 lead early in the second quarter, but the Big Red rebounded with help from a few trick plays. On one kickoff, kicker A.J. Weitsman distracted the Tigers’ return team with a rolling pratfall while backup Jay Harding discreetly kicked a tumbling grounder 10 yards and recovered the ball. Cornell settled for a field goal on the ensuing possession. “We had not played well on the road,”
said Cornell coach Jim Knowles, “and we were going to do everything we could to give our guys a chance at a victory.”
When Cornell took a 17–14 lead in the fourth quarter, Princeton quarterback Jeff Terrell ’07 put together his most impressive drive of the day, completing passes on two long third-down plays and one short fourth-down play. Javarone kicked a 32-yard field goal with 2:18 remaining, setting up overtime. “The thing that this team has shown us, time and time again, is that when the chips are down and our backs are against the wall, they’re not panicking,” said Princeton coach Roger Hughes.
On paper, Princeton has looked positively pedestrian, ranking in the middle of the Ivies in most offensive and defensive categories. But the Tigers have been opportunistic: In the 26 possessions in which they have passed their opponent’s 20-yard line, they have scored 24 times (12 touchdowns and 12 field goals), the best “red-zone” conversion rate in the league.
Against Cornell, the Tigers also improved their run defense, which had been one of the team’s few significant weaknesses. At Brown Oct. 15, Bears tailback Nick Hartigan gnawed through soggy turf and would-be tacklers for 245 yards as the Bears won 31–28. A week later at Harvard, tailback Clifton Dawson followed Hartigan’s blueprint, splitting the Tigers’ defense for 203 rushing yards. (The Tigers came from behind to beat the Crimson, 27–24, behind Jay McCareins ’06’s 93-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter.) But Cornell, which ranked 10th in rushing among NCAA Division I-AA teams, was stymied by the Tigers, running for 150 yards on 48 attempts.
Linebacker Abi Fadeyi ’06 said the key to the defensive stand was discipline, with each player assigned to fill a potential running lane. “As a team, we’re gelling and starting to trust each other more,” Fadeyi said, “and that’s really important at this time of the year.”
In high school, Cack Ferrell ’06 was a state champion in track, but she spent most of her time playing soccer. She never ran a cross country race before coming to Princeton. “I had no expectations,” Ferrell said of her first cross country season, in the fall of her freshman year. “At my first meet, I wasn’t really that nervous because I didn’t know what the heck I was doing.”
She caught on quickly. After sitting out the Pre-Nationals Invitational meet as a freshman (she was not one of Princeton’s top eight runners at the time), Ferrell pulled away from the pack, and by the time she finished her sophomore year, she had earned All-America status, finishing 22nd at the NCAA Cross Country Championships just 15 months after picking up the sport.
Ferrell has been an All-American four times (twice in cross country, twice in indoor track), and this fall has been one of her most impressive seasons. At the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships Oct. 28, she was one of three runners to break the meet record, finishing third in 17:08.1. Ferrell also placed third in the Griak Invitational in her home state of Minnesota Sept. 24, set a course record and beat two other nationally ranked runners at the Harvard-Yale-Princeton meet Oct. 1, and placed third at the Pre-Nationals Invitational Oct. 15.
While her expectations have grown, Ferrell has not abandoned her calm approach. “She’s very cool when it comes to competition,” said women’s cross country coach Peter Farrell. “A lot cooler than me.” And in a sport that breeds introspection (and occasionally introversion), Ferrell is outgoing and popular with her teammates, Farrell said.
Coaches aim to have runners compete at or above their training level, but in meets, Ferrell routinely exceeds her training by a wide margin. She traces her love of competition back to elementary school, when her gym class would line up for fitness tests. “I always beat the boys in the mile, which I thought was really cool,” Ferrell said.
Last spring and summer, a stress fracture in Ferrell’s heel kept her off the track, but by September, she was back in top form. Her goal is to be an All-American three times this year – in cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track – and at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, she’s looking forward to running against Columbia senior Caroline Bierbaum, the Ivy champion and a favorite for the NCAA individual title. “A lot of people think that she’s untouchable,” Ferrell said. “But I would never say that I couldn’t beat her.”
When men’s basketball coach Joe Scott ’87 talks about Princeton’s often-imitated offense, he focuses on its “structured freedom” — laying out a wide range of options and relying on the players to make good decisions, with speed and precision. “When we’re doing that in an offensive set, we have no idea who’s going to get the shot,” he said. “We just know that we’re going to get a good shot.”
Sharing the load is an established tenet for the Tigers, and it could be even more important this year as the team looks to replace Judson Wallace ’05 and Will Venable ’05, the two 1,000-point scorers who led Princeton last season. In the opening weeks of practice, Scott was upbeat about his team and eager to get past last year’s 6–8 finish in the Ivy League (15–13 overall). He said that in his second year as head coach at Princeton, he knows his players better, the coaches are in sync, and the team has put aside grandiose visions in favor of the incremental goal of getting better each day. “If you want to build something that’s special,” Scott said, “then you can’t skip any steps.”
Scott will count on guard Scott Greenman ’06, a three-year starter and the team’s only senior, to handle the ball and keep the offense moving. Greenman had 63 assists last year and 36 turnovers, and he made a team-high 52 three-pointers. Matt Sargeant ’08 and Geoff Kestler ’09 will compete for the other guard spot.
At forward, Luke Owings ’07, the Tigers’ top returning rebounder, and Noah Savage ’08, who averaged 26 minutes per game as a freshman, return to their starting roles, with freshman Alex Okafor adding depth off the bench. Scott had particularly high praise for Savage and his dedicated approach to practice. “I’m not putting pressure on the kid, it’s just saying what I see: He is the embodiment of what we are striving for in this program,” Scott said. “Our belief is that when you go about things the way he does every day, good things are going to happen.”
Scott was also impressed with center Patrick Ekeruo ’07, who has improved both his conditioning and skill. Though Ekeruo appeared in just 13 games in his first two seasons, he could see significant time on the court as Harrison Schaen ’08 builds up to full speed. Schaen, an impressive defender and occasional scorer as a freshman in 2003–04, took a leave of absence from Princeton last year.
Princeton’s nonconference schedule includes road trips to Wake Forest and Stanford and home dates against Drexel (Nov. 14 in the Preseason NIT), Wyoming, and Temple. On Jan. 13, the Tigers tip off their Ivy schedule, and Scott vowed to have the team more prepared for league games this year. Whether that preparation brings more wins is still to be determined. “We’re young, and we have question marks,” Scott said, “but there’s a sort of guarded, cautious optimism because I think our guys are getting it.”
And what is “it”? “It’s the ultimate team game,” Scott said, launching into a rapid-fire vision for his team. “It’s just selflessness in that regard. It’s a sharing of the ball like you can’t believe, and the ball moving faster, and nobody ever caring who gets the shot — who cares? We’re just having fun playing together, competing — and then we’re going to defend you too, and we’re going to go after the ball.”
“When we’re like that,” he said, “I like our chances.”
Princeton’s varsity eight captured the MEN’S HEAVYWEIGHT CREW championship at the Head of the Charles Regatta Oct. 23, becoming the first U.S. collegiate crew to win the event in 22 years. Princeton surged ahead of defending champion Cambridge University late in the race and held on to win by five seconds. WOMEN’S OPEN CREW also rowed well at the Head of the Charles, finishing second to the U.S. national team.
Oct. 22 in Cambridge, Mass., featured three tight contests between Harvard and Princeton. In FIELD HOCKEY, freshman Candi Arner scored her first career goal in overtime at Harvard, breaking a 1–1 tie and clinching the Ivy League championship for Princeton. In WOMEN’S SOCCER, Emily Behncke ’06 scored with 14 seconds remaining in overtime to lead the Tigers over Harvard, 2–1. MEN’S SOCCER also went to overtime against the Crimson, but the game ended in a 1–1 tie.
In the final home game for MEN’S WATER POLO Oct. 20, six of Princeton’s eight seniors scored goals and a seventh, Gant Morgner, made eight saves in goal as the Tigers routed Queens College 18–7.
WOMEN’S VOLLEYBALL beat Brown Oct. 21 but lost to Yale Oct. 22, bringing the Tigers’ Ivy record to 3-4 at the season’s midway point. Princeton was 12–6 overall through the Yale game.
Tommi Hurme ’08 and Ben Solomon ’06 finished second and third, respectively, in the epee as MEN’S FENCING opened its season at the Penn State Garret Open Oct. 23. Jacqueline Leahy ’06 was WOMEN’S FENCING’s top finisher at the event, placing third in the foil.
A week after scoring its first two touchdowns of the season, SPRINT FOOTBALL fell to Navy 98–0 Oct. 21 in the most lopsided loss in Princeton history.
WOMEN’S GOLF finished third in a 16-team field at the Penn State Invita-tional Oct. 16. Sharla Cloutier ’08 led the Tigers, placing fourth individually. In MEN’S GOLF, Princeton wrapped up its fall season with a fourth-place showing at Georgetown’s Hoya Invitational Oct. 23.