With 2011’s four leading scorers all back as well, the Tigers (4-0) have realistically high hopes for this season. Princeton was tied for second in this week’s coaches’ poll, its highest ranking ever.
Two weeks ago, the Tigers opened the season in North Carolina with a 5-2 victory over then-No. 5 Duke and followed up two days later with a 4-2 win over No. 13 Wake Forest. The next week, No. 8 Penn State posed a threat on the road, but Princeton pulled out a 3-2 overtime victory. On Sunday, the Tigers finally had the opportunity to host an opponent on their new home turf at Bedford Field, and they tallied their fourth win 2-1 over Richmond.
“I think the team is definitely pleased with where we stand at the moment,” senior and Ivy League Player of the Week Katie Reinprecht said. “I’m very happy that we were able to come out on top in all four games, but with that said, our performances were far from perfect.”
With the return of sisters Katie and Julia Reinprecht, as well as junior Michelle Cesan and senior Kat Sharkey, Princeton welcomes back four U.S. national team players that bring a wealth of talent, energy and experience.
The Reinprechts made the cut for the 16-player Olympic squad and traveled to London in July and August to compete on the biggest international stage. (Cesan joined the team as an alternate.)
“The girls returning from the national team have made our lineup so solid all over the field, and it’s an amazing experience playing with them,” sophomore and 2011 Ivy League Rookie of the Year Allison Evans said. “They bring so much talent and energy to the team every day and are fantastic leaders for us.”
Also joining the returning players is an eager group of six freshmen ready to make a positive impact on the team. Already making key contributions on the field, this group is making a statement early on.
“The freshmen fit in so well with the team,” said Sharkey, who scored seven goals in the first two games. “We did a lot of team bonding activities during preseason, so I think our team is very close on and off the field.”
The combination of returning veterans and new faces results in a deep and talented team, with many weapons to use against opponents.
“The speed and depth of this team have been key to our success thus far,” Julia Reinprecht said. “We try to play a fast style, and fortunately, making substitutions during the games has enabled us to maintain that tempo while keeping the quality of play.”
Though they have already set a high benchmark for their performance, the Tigers have been pushed hard in their last two games, needing late goals to beat Penn State and Richmond. They still believe they have areas to improve over the remaining eight weeks of the regular season, which includes home games against No. 2 Syracuse and No. 4 Maryland.
“I think a weakness that has been quite apparent in this first phase is our first-half performance,” Katie Reinprecht said. “We haven’t been playing our best hockey in the first 35 minutes of the game. Although it hasn’t hurt us yet, we cannot be slow out of the gates. This is something we believe is controllable, and we look to improve on in our next few games.”
“As much as we want to picture ourselves at the Final Four, we still have a lot of work to do and a long season ahead of us,” Cesan said.
The Tigers take on their first Ivy League rival, Dartmouth, at noon Saturday at Bedford Field. Last year, the Big Green snapped Princeton’s 24-game conference win streak, so the Tigers have revenge in mind.
“We’re having an intense week of practices leading up to Dartmouth to really refine our individual skills,” Evans said. “We’re also having an inter-squad competition day to get our competitive juices flowing.”
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/09/13/31090/