October 25, 2006: Sports
Sports Scores Updated weekly
play: Matheson stars for Princeton, Canada
By Ashley Wolf ’08
Few Princeton coaches would put up with a player missing games to train with another team. But when the player is midfielder Diana Matheson ’08 and the team is the Canadian national team, head women’s soccer coach Julie Shackford has little choice.
“That’s the blessing and the curse of having someone at that level,” Shackford said. “We have to learn to play without her, too.”
Shackford is happy to cope with Matheson missing three early-season contests in order to reap the benefits of her play. In Matheson’s first six games this season, the junior from Oakville, Ontario, scored four goals and assisted on three others for the Tigers. “She really is just the epitome of a play-maker,” Shackford said. “You don’t see too many all-around playmakers who can get people involved — who can shoot, pass, dribble, score. Just everything flows in and out of her.”
The 5-feet-2-inch Matheson is the shortest player on the field for Princeton, but she is often the most involved, cutting to an open space near the goal, clearing a dangerous ball on the defensive end, or verbally directing her teammates. “She’s the complete player,” defender Taylor Numann ’09 said. “There’s not an aspect of Diana’s game that’s not 100 percent solid. You can’t ask for more.”
On top of the skills that warranted her first-team All-America selection as a freshman in 2004, Matheson is calm under pressure. In a win against Lehigh Sept. 19, she serenely drove a penalty kick into the right corner of the net, offering the goalie no opportunity to stop it. Among teammates, Matheson is known for her sense of humor. She has been a captain for two seasons.
With Canada working to qualify for the 2007 Women’s World Cup in Beijing, Matheson missed preseason workouts and two separate weeks during September to train with her national team. But she is expected to be on campus full time for the rest of the season — good news for the Tigers, who have struggled to score goals, even with Matheson in the lineup. Said Shackford: “She’s the difference maker, there’s no question.”
Ashley Wolf ’08 is a molecular biology major from Montville, N.J.
After surging to a 14–0 lead at Columbia Sept. 30, Princeton’s offense stumbled, turning over the ball on an interception and a fumble. But the Tigers’ defense erased the second of the two missteps and held the Lions to 134 total yards — including 23 on the ground — in a 19–6 Princeton win.
Columbia (2–1, 0–1 Ivy) managed just two first downs in the first half and trailed 17–6 in the third quarter before forcing a fumble by Tiger punt returner Brian Shields ’07 late in the third to create a comeback opportunity. The Lions took possession on the Princeton 36-yard line, but three plays into the drive, linebacker Brig Walker ’07 stepped in front of a Columbia pass, popped the ball up in the air, and dove to snatch an interception, ending the threat.
Despite being placed in difficult situations, the defense showed no hesitation, according to head coach Roger Hughes. “Frankly, I think they’re excited to get back on the field,” he said. “They just don’t get rattled.”
Princeton was particularly strong on the defensive line. The Tigers recorded only one sack — a safety by Mike Meehan ’07 on a delayed blitz in the fourth quarter — but Lion quarterback Craig Norman saw consistent pressure and completed just 13 of 31 pass attempts.
The Tigers’ linebackers also had an impressive day. In the week leading up to the Columbia game, linebackers coach Don Dobes said his group was determined to dispel the notion that it was the “weak link” in an otherwise sturdy defense. Tim Boardman ’08 led the team with five tackles and Walker showed speed and versatility, grabbing Princeton’s only interception, forcing a fumble, and making two tackles.
Columbia’s only points came late in the second quarter, on a 13-yard touchdown pass that immediately followed an interception thrown by Princeton’s Jeff Terrell ’07. Terrell had an up-and-down day, tossing two interceptions but completing 12 of 20 pass attempts for 141 yards. On Princeton’s first scoring drive, early in the second quarter, he fumbled the snap on a key third-and-goal play, but he quickly reset the offense without a huddle for fourth down. Terrell faked a handoff to Rob Toresco ’08 and eluded a rushing linebacker to shoot a one-yard touchdown pass to Billy Mitchell ’09.
The Columbia game, which was Princeton’s Ivy League opener, included a breakout performance by R.C. Lagomarsino ’09, a slight but shifty tailback who carried 23 times for 98 yards and a touchdown. “Clearly, there were a couple of plays where we didn’t block people and he just made them miss,” Hughes said after the game.
While special teams accounted for one of the Tigers’ four turnovers — the fumbled punt return — Princeton’s return specialists provided a boost on two occasions. Shields returned a punt 49 yards in the first quarter, and on the free kick that followed the fourth-quarter safety, Bill Foran ’08 sprinted 44 yards along the left sideline to the Lions’ 30-yard line, setting up a Princeton drive that ate up the last four minutes on the clock and sealed the victory.
With its win, Princeton improved to 3–0 (1–0 Ivy) and showed that its defense — ranked first in the league with an average of 10 points allowed — can carry the Tigers when the offense does not. “It adds to the confidence and cohesiveness of this unit,” said Walker, who with six career starts is the team’s most experienced linebacker. “It feels good to win like that.”
Among the celebrants on hand Sept. 30 when the MEN’S and WOMEN’S SOCCER teams marked the sport’s 100th season of intercollegiate play at Princeton were, from left, keynote speaker Don Betterton, an assistant coach for the men’s team and former head coach of the women’s team; men’s coach Jim Barlow ’91; women’s coach Julie Shackford; athletics director Gary Walters ’67; and event organizers Wayne Paglieri ’78 and Tony Garcia ’78. Alumni started the day with informal matches on the practice field and then watched the varsity teams face Dartmouth in the afternoon. The women lost 1–0, but the men edged the Big Green 1–0, thanks to a first-half goal by Kyle McHugh ’08. At a post-game reception, alumni, players, and coaches celebrated Princeton soccer history, which includes six Ivy championships for the men’s team and five for the women’s team. Both programs have reached the NCAA Final Four (the men in 1993 and the women in 2004).
WOMEN’S VOLLEYBALL started the season 11–0, winning three non-league tournaments on the road before beating Penn 3–1 in its Ivy League opener Sept. 30. The Tigers also won their first home match, sweeping Juniata 3–0 Oct. 1. Middle blocker Lindsey Ensign ’09 led the team with 172 kills in the first 11 matches.
With back-to-back wins against Bucknell and Johns Hopkins Sept. 29 and 30, MEN’S WATER POLO improved to 11–4. Three of the Tigers’ four losses came against teams ranked in the nation’s top 10. Princeton will host the Eastern Championships, with an NCAA Final Four bid on the line, Nov. 11 and 12.
Annika Welander ’08 led WOMEN’S GOLF to victories in its first two fall events, the Princeton Invitational, Sept. 23 and 24, and the Yale Fall Intercollegiate, Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. Welander, whose 3-under-par 69 at Springdale Golf Club was the low round of the Princeton event, won top individual honors in both tournaments.
WOMEN’S and MEN’S HOCKEY open their home schedules at Baker Rink Oct. 27 and 28, respectively. The women, who reached the NCAA Championships last season, will face St. Lawrence. The men, who posted a winning record in home games last year, will host Bentley.