March 22, 2006: Sports
Sports Scores Updated weekly
After playing a set of Friday and Saturday Ivy League games, men’s basketball captain Scott Greenman ’06 has a simple postgame routine. “I get a lot of sleep,” he said. “Nothing too strenuous on Sundays.”
Greenman has deserved the rest. After missing four full games and parts of two others with a back injury early in the season, the 5-foot, 9-inch point guard has recast himself as the Tigers’ ironman, playing every minute in seven of Princeton’s first 11 Ivy games. He also increased his scoring, pouring in 15.3 points per game against the Ivies, compared with 5.3 against non-league opponents, to become the team’s top scorer. And more important, Princeton’s season took a turn for the better, with the Tigers improving to 8–3 in Ivy play (second place, two games behind Penn) and 10–14 overall.
The Tigers’ midyear revival has not come easily. Greenman needed to hit two buzzer-beating three-pointers — one from 26 feet out at the end of regulation, the other a well-defended double-clutching attempt in overtime — to enable Princeton to beat Cornell in double-overtime Feb. 17. Greenman finished with 27 points, tying a career high. The Tigers found themselves on the opposite side of late-game heroics at Columbia the next night, losing 65–64.
The following week, Greenman scored 22 points in a come-from-behind win against Dartmouth that featured backcourt mate Edwin Buffmire ’07 in a starring role. Buffmire forced a Big Green turnover, scored the go-ahead layup while being fouled, converted the ensuing free throw, and blocked Dartmouth’s next shot attempt, all in the final 1:03, and Princeton won 63–60. Against Harvard Feb. 25, Princeton finally breathed easier, winning a 75–48 rout.
In the four-game stretch, Greenman spent just two minutes on the bench, during the Harvard game. Head coach Joe Scott ’87 conceded that he has asked a lot of Greenman, the Tigers’ lone senior, but he added, “He’s obviously doing it, and he’s doing it well, whether it’s 40 [minutes played] or 50 [in the Cornell game].”
Greenman has been scoring at about the same rate he did in his senior year of high school, when he averaged 17 points a game in a fast-breaking, run-and-gun offense — “very similar to what we do here,” he joked — but as Princeton’s leader in assists, he has continued to share the ball, and the credit. “I’m getting some points right now, but it’s absolutely a collective thing,” he said. “It’s a byproduct of a lot of different things coming together.”
Sixteen varsity programs play the bulk of their schedules in the spring, making it the busiest season of the year for Princeton athletics. As the games begin, PAW takes a quick look at some of this year’s Tiger teams.
BASEBALL After nine consecutive years as champion of the Ivy League’s Gehrig Division, the baseball team was knocked from its familiar perch by Cornell last season. This year’s team aims to rebound behind an experienced pitching staff, anchored by All-Ivy righthander Erik Stiller ’06, and a pair of .300 hitters in Andrew Salini ’06 and Zach Wendkos ’06. Off-season renovations at Clarke Field pinched in the outfield fence, making the dimensions more hospitable for power hitters, but coach Scott Bradley expects his team to rely on fundamentals over might. “We’re going to have to do a little more bunting and put the ball in play a little bit more,” he said. “We don’t have guys who are going to walk up and hit three-run homers.”
SOFTBALL Winners of last year’s Ivy League championship — their third in four years — softball returns the league’s most dominant pitching duo, Erin Snyder ’06 and Kristen Schaus ’08. Snyder, who is 36 strikeouts shy of the Princeton career record, pitched two perfect games in a three-week span last year, and Schaus struck out 217 batters, eclipsing Snyder’s record for strikeouts by a freshman. “It’s like we have two number-one pitchers,” said coach Maureen Barron ’97. The Tigers also improved their depth, adding five freshmen, and Barron expects more power from this year’s lineup.
CREW Women’s open crew rowed to a perfect 11–0 regular-season record last year, before California edged the Tigers at the NCAA Championships in May. Most of the first varsity boat returns, including standout Caroline Lind ’06, who stroked the U.S. women’s eight at last summer’s world championships. “Having someone like her just increases the expectations and pushes the rest of the group,” said coach Lori Dauphiny. “She’s been a real catalyst.” Another motivating factor: This year’s NCAA Championships will be held in Princeton’s backyard at Mercer County Lake in West Windsor. On the men’s side, Princeton’s heavyweight crew should be a national title contender. The varsity eight, which finished second to Harvard at the IRA nationals last year, notched an impressive win in October at the Head of the Charles Regatta, becoming the first American collegiate crew to win the men’s championship race in 22 years.
WOMEN’S LACROSSE Princeton women’s lacrosse, ranked as high as No. 3 in some national preseason polls, may not have the superstars of years past, but according to coach Chris Sailer, the squad has plenty of talent. The Tigers will rely on several capable scorers, an experienced defense, a pair of solid goalkeepers vying for the starting job, and five or six freshmen who are likely to see significant playing time. With an opening stretch of six straight games against ranked teams, Sailer said, “We’re going to learn a lot about ourselves early.”
By David Baumgarten ’06
By the time Yasser El Halaby ’06 walked off the No. 1 squash court at Jadwin Gym — victorious as usual — for the final time in his storied career, late in the afternoon Feb. 19, the men’s squash team already had seen its hopes of claiming the 2006 College Squash Association team championship expire. A few minutes earlier, Trinity College’s Yvian Badan had finished off Dent Wilkens ’07 at the No. 7 spot, giving Trinity its fifth win of the day and clinching the Bantams’ eighth straight national title.
Disappointed as he was, El Halaby’s next move provided a reminder of why the Tigers finished the day with high hopes for the future. One court over, he cheered as his younger brother, Hesham El Halaby ’09, prevailed in a five-game match at the No. 4 spot, narrowing the final score to 5–4. The clear message from the Tigers to the Bantams: We’re closing on you.
The younger El Halaby was one of three freshmen to claim victory against Trinity, along with No. 2 Mauricio Sanchez and No. 3 Kimlee Wong, who both turned in 3–1 wins. The elder El Halaby’s 3–1 victory at No. 1 gave the Tigers a fourth win, but Trinity swept the lower part of the ladder.
The hard-luck honor of toughest loss went to Michael Gilman ’07, who led 2–1 at the No. 8 spot before succumbing to Simba Muhwait in five games. “That was the one,” head coach Bob Callahan ’77 ruefully said afterward. “When it goes to the fifth game, anything can happen.”
But Callahan made it clear he was proud of his team, saying that his squad gave Trinity the toughest fight of any opponent during the Bantams’ eight-year run. Princeton also lost 5–4 at Trinity Feb. 1, and fans anticipated a thrilling rematch. Princeton supporters and busloads of imported Trinity students packed the Jadwin facilities, and the resulting environment was akin to attending a rock concert in a small sauna. But most fans were far too enraptured to consider leaving. That, fittingly, was the spirit that buoyed the Tigers at the end of a tough afternoon. “Trinity’s really good,” said Callahan, “but we’re not going away.”
David Baumgarten ’06 is a frequent PAW contributor.
Two Princeton teams earned Ivy League championships in the last weekend of February, and a third won a pair of key games to give the Tigers a chance at another title. The successful stretch began Feb. 23 when WOMEN’S SWIMMING sprinted to an early lead on the first day of the Ivy League Championships in Cambridge, Mass., winning two relays and two individual events. By the end of the three-day meet, the Tigers increased their lead to 145 points over second-place Harvard, which had beaten Princeton in the regular season.
WOMEN’S HOCKEY edged Brown 3–2 Feb. 24 and shut out Yale 3–0 Feb. 25 to clinch its first Ivy title in 11 years. Five different Tigers scored goals, with senior Heather Jackson netting two against Yale. Princeton earned the No. 2 seed in the ECAC Hockey League playoffs.
In WOMEN’S BASKETBALL, Princeton won 62–49 at Dartmouth Feb. 24 and beat Harvard 69–57 the next night, sweeping the Big Green and Crimson on the road for the first time in team history. With three Ivy games remaining, including a March 3 home game against first-place Brown, the Tigers had a chance to clinch at least a share of the league title with three more wins.