November 3, 2008

Princeton Hands Field Hockey First Ivy League Loss

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The field hockey team came up short of clinching at least a share of the Ivy League title and the league’s spot in an NCAA tournament play-in game on Saturday, falling 4-0 to Princeton before a standing room-only crowd at Marsha Dodson Field.
For the No. 11 Tigers (13-2, 6-0 Ivy), the win marks its fourth consecutive Ivy title and the 14th of the last 15 awarded overall. For the Red (10-5, 5-1 Ivy), the defeat marks its first conference loss in over a year and prevents its most successful senior class ever from gaining sole possession of a league title.
“We were very pleased to have the opportunity to play for an Ivy League title on our home field and we’re disappointed in the loss,” said head coach Donna Hornibrook to “But we respect Princeton and they played a great game. The difference today was that they were able to capitalize on their opportunities and finish around the goal and we weren’t able to.”
After falling inches short of the title last season on an OT goal against Harvard, anticipation of the Ivy heavyweights’ matchup had never been higher. Athletics Director Andy Noel’s presence on the sidelines underscored the importance of the match for both the team and community alike. Cornell defeated Princeton for the first time in 16 games last year when a heroic second-half comeback, capped by then-junior Abbi Horn’s goal with under a minute remaining, erased a 2-0 halftime deficit.
This year, Cornell came out strong in the first minute and took advantage of some poor passing by the Princeton midfield, but seemed to have the wind sucked out after an early goal was waved off.
“Having the first goal called back changed the momentum,” said junior goalie Melanie Jue. “If we scored that one, the entire game would’ve been different.”[img_assist|nid=33221|title=Bull’s eye|desc=Junior netminder Melanie Jue (33) made three spectacular saves after Princeton scored its first goal at Marsha Dodson Field on Saturday, but the Tigers’ momentum carried them to victory.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Princeton’s precision offense sprung to life, as short, quick passes led to five Tiger corners over a six-minute span. Four times the Cornell defense turned away Princeton’s high octane scoring unit, including three brilliant diving saves by Jue, but the fifth time was the charm for the Tigers. Princeton senior Kraftin Schreyer tipped home the early game-winning goal to put the Tigers ahead, 1-0.
As the half wore on, the free hits for Princeton added up, and a partisan Cornell crowd voiced its disapproval. Princeton’s ball control and movement rendered the Red helpless and winded as the home team struggled to regain footing in the match. With fifteen minutes remaining in the half, Princeton freshman Kathleen Sharkey pulled Jue off her line before feeding senior Katie Kinzer, who tapped in the easy goal under a sprawling Jue to put Princeton in front, 2-0.
Characteristic of Hornibrook’s style, Cornell did not go down without a battle, and the arrival of the Big Red Bear mascot appeared to spark the Cornell offense. Late in the half, Horn and sophomore Catie De Stio’s 2-on-1 attempt was kicked aside by Princeton’s sophomore goalie Jennifer King before she made another spectacular save on Red sophomore Kate Thompson’s shot. Thompson undressed the Tiger defense, weaving her way through the back line, but King managed to get a piece of the shot, sending it just wide of the cage. The teams entered halftime tied 2-0, and for parents in the crowd, it was déjà vu all over again.
“During halftime, coach Hornibrook told us were in the same place last year and we were still in the game,” Jue said. “Coming out of the gates, we just wanted to play our game and not worry about the score.”
The second half bore witness to a rejuvenated Cornell squad. Four corners within the first three minutes created numerous scoring opportunities for the Red, but King denied every one of them. In what proved to be the decisive turning point of the contest, on the fourth corner, the ball rolled to the goal line before Cornell was whistled for an infraction thus ending the threat. A glimmer of hope at repeating last season’s comeback was snatched away by the quick-to-the-whistle referees.
Princeton played a defensive minded formation the rest of the match, capitalizing on two more opportunities in the final 10 minutes of action to put the game out of reach. With the realization of the title slipping away, emotions ran high for Cornell. In the final seconds, De Stio was whistled for a yellow card, but it mattered little, as Princeton played the role of dream-dasher once again, winning 4-0
“Princeton definitely is a good team and you have to give them some respect, “ Jue said. “But they were a better team just on Saturday. Our team played very well, and the difference just happened to be on who finished. We had a lot of opportunities, but couldn’t seem to capitalize.”
Final score was not indicative of the statistics, as Princeton held a slight 18-14 advantage in shots and 10-6 edge in penalty corners.
Cornell can still share the Ivy title with Princeton if Cornell defeats Dartmouth next weekend at home and Princeton loses to Penn, but the Tigers will represent the Ivy League in the NCAA play-in game regardless of next weekend’s outcome.