October 10, 2001: Sports

Can youth trump experience? Field hockey looks to freshmen


Sports Web Exclusives! Matt Golden's From the Cheap Seats column

Can youth trump experience?
Field hockey looks to freshmen

By Paul Hagar ’91

By the time you read this article, the nine freshmen on Princeton’s young field hockey team will know what it takes to play at the top level of the college ranks. In the past two weeks, the Tigers played their Ivy archrival, Dartmouth, as well as powerhouses Maryland and Old Dominion.

In the past several years, Princeton has had tremendous success, garnering seven straight Ivy titles, nine victories in the NCAA tournament, and three trips to the Final Four. This year, duplicating such results may prove a challenge, with almost half the 21-member team making their debuts at the college level and with a grand total of zero seniors. A rebuilding year? Not according to tricaptain Emily Townsend ’03: “I won’t be satisfied just to get to the tournament, or just to win a game or two. I’ll be disappointed if we don’t make the finals.”

Tricaptain Kelly Baril ’03 agrees, “While we do lack experience, our freshmen have all been playing at a high level for a long time, and they’ve all been working incredibly hard in the nine months since they found out they got into Princeton.”

Among the freshman standouts are Natalie Martirosian, an all-America selection who was also Virginia’s high school player of the year. Other all-Americas include Martirosian’s twin sister, Alexis; attack Ashley Sennett; midfielder Lizzie Black; and defender Kelly Darling.

With the new faces, Coach Beth Bozman has also introduced a new defensive scheme, the center zone, a strategy in which the team holds a triangle zone in the middle of the field instead of marking man to man. A few weeks along the team’s learning curve, Townsend, explained: “It’s a challenge because it’s new, and as sweeper, I have to direct the center midfielder (Cory Picketts ’04) and the center fullback (freshman Jennifer Elliott) to create the zone. They have to listen and then get there by cutting the angles and using their speed.”

The combination of Bozman’s strategic changes and a tough schedule leave little room for learning on the job. That’s one possible reason the coach has put a strong focus on the team’s defensive squad. All three tricaptains play defense: goalie Baril, sweeper Townsend, and right back Beckie Wood ’03. Bozman also moved Kristen Skorupski ’03 from offense to defense.

While Bozman has made changes, her offense is still built for speed. Ilvy Friebe ’03 and Claire Miller ’04 rank among the country’s fastest players, enabling the offense to pose a constant threat of counterattacks when the Tigers gain possession at the defensive end.

Despite its youth, Princeton has a good chance to win another league title and get into the tournament, as reflected by the team’s top-five preseason ranking. Moving through to the Final Four could prove a different story, but Townsend sounds confident. “I think we can go really far this year. I just hope no one lets down,” she says. “I think the team sees a lot of promise in themselves, and I know [Coach Bozman] sees a lot of promise in us.”

Paul Hagar ’91 is former senior PAW editor.

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