November 22, 2006: Sports
Sports Scores Updated weekly
For the more than 14,000 fans who saw host Princeton beat Penn in overtime Nov. 4, the game forever will be remembered for the fortuitous flip that saved the Tigers’ day and kept hope alive for an Ivy League title share.
On a fourth-and-goal play from the 1-yard line, fullback Rob Toresco ’08 tried to leap over the Quakers for a touchdown, but the defense pushed him back. He drove his legs for a second attempt, but the tacklers converged again, wrapping his ankles and waist. All that remained free was his right arm, which held the ball. When quarterback Jeff Terrell ’07 called for the ball, Toresco “turned around and just let it go,” releasing what looked like a shovel-pass in reverse.
Terrell snatched the ball and sprinted to the right side of the end zone, giving Princeton the go-ahead touchdown. Penn wasted little time in responding, scoring on the first play of its overtime possession, but the Quakers botched the point-after try due to a low snap. Princeton won, 31–30, thanks in large part to Toresco and Terrell’s sandlot-style improvisation.
After the game, the two players were all smiles when describing the play. Toresco began his account by telling reporters, “Well, the way we drew it up...” Terrell shook his head and added, “Playing in the backyard pays off sometimes.”
Penn took a less lighthearted view of the Tigers’ miracle, claiming that the referees were too slow to blow the whistle when Toresco’s progress stalled. “His momentum was clearly stopped,” Penn coach Al Bagnoli said. “We had one guy low on both legs — the kid wasn’t going anywhere. Everybody stopped playing.”
That the game even reached overtime was remarkable, considering that Princeton led 24–10 early in the fourth quarter and displayed few signs of slowing down. A week after the Tigers’ unbeaten run had been stopped in a lackluster performance at Cornell, Terrell was in the midst of a stellar game in which he would complete 21 of 36 passes for 227 yards, throw for three touchdowns, and run for a fourth. Backup quarterback Bill Foran ’08 had gained 84 rushing yards on six attempts, mostly end-around plays, adding a much-needed spark to the running game. Princeton’s defense, which had given up 14 points in a quarter only once in seven games, seemed equipped to preserve the lead.
But Penn, which had lost its previous two games in overtime, showed resilience and a propensity for big plays. It scored early in the fourth quarter on a 68-yard drive that included three plays of 15 yards or more.
In Penn’s final drive of the fourth quarter, when it faced a fourth-down play with 24 yards to go, quarterback Robert Irvin floated a pass downfield to backup receiver Billy May, who grabbed the ball for a 29-yard gain. Three plays later, Irvin threw to Matt Carre, who made a diving grab and tumbled into the end zone. With the extra point, Penn tied the score with 39 seconds remaining.
Penn and Princeton each failed to convert a field goal attempt in the first overtime, setting up a second set of possessions, the Toresco toss, and Princeton’s seventh win in eight games. “Clearly we didn’t play our best game today, but we found a way to win,” head coach Roger Hughes said. “The ball went our way.”
When Justin Conway ’07 lifted the ball over the rim for the final, decisive basket in men’s basketball’s season-ending win against Penn last March, it was the culmination of a three-year journey that saw the lightly recruited player from a small prep school in Santa Fe, N.M. (graduating class: 49), work his way up from the junior varsity to the varsity bench and, finally, into the Tigers’ starting lineup for the last 13 games of the 2005–06 season. In Princeton’s biggest game, he was not only the hero of the final moments but the star of the night, leading the Tigers in points (21) and assists (six). It was a finish fit for Hollywood.
Fortunately for the Tigers, that will not be the final scene in The Justin Conway Story. The 6-foot-4-inch, 215-pound center who helped to spark Princeton’s midseason turnaround last year is back on the court for his senior season, eager to prove that he can hold his own outside the Ivy League. “I definitely like the physical aspects of the game,” Conway said, looking ahead to games at Marquette’s Blue and Gold Classic Dec. 1 and 2 and at South Carolina Dec. 20. “I’m excited to get a taste of these non-league matchups against some big-name schools.”
Conway, who joined the varsity team as a sophomore walk-on, said that his aggressive play was influenced by the challenges he faced when he was so far down on the depth chart that he did not even get his own locker. “It was like every practice was a game for me,” he said. “I had to prove that I belonged.”
Head coach Joe Scott ’87 remembers seeing Conway in those early practices, drawing charges on defense, chasing down loose balls, and occasionally knocking his teammates to the floor. When other players sat to rest, Conway found a ball and practiced on the sideline. When the coaches were a man short for a drill, Conway volunteered to do it twice. “He just made you notice him,” Scott said.
Conway’s work ethic earned him an award at the team banquet, but his playing time as a sophomore was limited to a single appearance in mop-up duty during a win against Harvard. That changed last season, during the January exam break, when Scott decided it was time to see if Conway could translate his practice skills into on-court production. In each of the 13 remaining games, Conway started at center, a pivotal position in the Princeton offense, and he averaged 8.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per contest. The Tigers were 9–4 in that stretch.
While Conway is relatively small for a Division I center, it has not been a handicap for the Tigers. On defense, he plays on the wing in the 1–2–2 matchup zone, and 6-foot-6-inch swingman Luke Owings ’07 moves down to the post. On offense, Conway spends much of his time near the end of the free-throw line, peering over his shoulders to spot cutting teammates. He has an uncommon combination of strong court vision, a sturdy frame, and a soft shooting touch. (Last year, he made 25 of 27 foul shots.)
Off the court, Conway is working on a sociology thesis about health disparities in inner-city Trenton and applying to medical schools for the 2007–08 academic year. He said that he does not spend much time thinking about how far he has come on the basketball court; he’s more concerned about where his team is headed. “There’s still a lot more to accomplish,” Conway said. “The story has to continue, so I want to make sure it continues in the right fashion.”
When Princeton clinched the Ivy League field hockey title with a 3–1 win over Harvard Oct. 21, there was no on-field celebration, and few smiles were on the players’ faces. But the lack of emotion did not bother head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn. “They knew they didn’t play well, and they knew that we still have Penn left,” she said. “From my perspective, it’s the proudest I’ve been of my team because it shows me that they understand the bigger picture.”
Overall, this year has been a strong one for the Tigers. After winning one-goal games against Yale and Dartmouth to open the Ivy season, they looked dominant their next four league games, winning by a combined score of 19–3.
Princeton’s offensive production has come from several sources, including Holly McGarvie ’09, who moved from defense to the attack following an impressive string of fall practices; Paige Schmidt ’08, who leads the team in assists with six; and Katie Kinzer ’09, whose seven goals include five game-winners. Defensively, freshman Kaitlyn Perrelle has been the keystone of the back line. Allison Nemeth ’07, who has started 48 career games in goal, is Princeton’s only senior starter.
After the win over Harvard, the Tigers looked ahead to two dates on the calendar: a Nov. 3 home game against Penn, where they would have a chance to finish the Ivy schedule 7–0 for the second straight year, and the first round of the NCAA Champion-ships Nov. 11, where they hoped to grab the program’s first postseason win since 2002. Results were not available in time for this issue of PAW.
For the first time since 1980, MEN’S and WOMEN’S CROSS COUNTRY swept the team titles at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx Oct. 27. The Princeton men opened the day by placing three runners in the top seven, led by David Nightingale ’08, far left, to hold off Columbia and defending-champion Dartmouth. Princeton’s women followed with a dominant performance, placing all five of their scoring runners in the top 13. Freshmen Christy Johnson, right, and Liz Costello led the Tigers’ pack.
MEN’S WATER POLO lost a tight contest to Navy in the Southern Championships final Oct. 29. After tying the game in the fourth quarter, Princeton fell behind 11–9 but charged back to within a goal with 1:30 remaining. The Midshipmen held on to win 11–10. Princeton is 0–4 against Navy this season, with each game decided by two or fewer goals.
WOMEN’S VOLLEYBALL improved to 17–2 this season with wins against Harvard and Dartmouth Oct. 27 and 28 and moved within a half-game of Cornell and Yale for first place in the Ivy League.