When a team takes a shade under twice as many shots as its opponents over a 17-game season, you might guess that the team has at the very least tasted significant success, if not challenged for a trophy. The women’s soccer team, however, struggled to a 6-10-1 overall record last year, with strong overall performances undone by poor finishes.
Although the 2012 season is only four games old, signs indicate that the Tigers (2-1-1) have developed into a more clinical unit as they’ve won two of their last three games and scored nine goals so far.
“I think that we’re doing pretty well, we’re very positive and excited to go out to California on the 13th,” senior forward Jen Hoy said. “And with being 2-1-1, we’re in a good place to continue in a positive way with our season. And I think that we’re finally at the point where our game fitness is strong and it’s where we want to be.”
Hoy leads the team with five goals, including a natural hat trick in a 4-4 double overtime classic against Colgate. The team has converted 15 percent of its overall shots as compared to 10 percent last year.
“I think the forwards were really focusing on putting the ball in the back of the net,” Hoy said, “and we want to take advantage of the chances we’re given, because you’re always going to get opportunities as a forward. It’s whether you capitalize, and that’s one of our goals: to capitalize.”
The team has been given fresh impetus with a talented group of newcomers along with the continued development of its existing players. Freshman midfielder Jessica Lee in particular has already made an impact, starting all four matches and notching a goal in the 3-0 win against Saint Joseph’s last Friday to earn Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors.
“Absolutely, we love them,” Hoy said when asked whether the freshmen had integrated well into the team. “They’re definitely a very important and awesome part of the team. We’re excited about them.”
Still, tougher challenges lie ahead as the Tigers take on No. 3-ranked UCLA (5-0-1) tonight in Los Angeles, before facing University of California, Irvine (3-5-0) on Sunday in the final match of the UCLA Soccer Classic.
UCLA has won five of its six games this fall by an average of about two goals per game. Its top goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland has yet to concede a goal in 360 minutes of play this year, and the team has outshot its opponents 126-34. Add in the fact that the Tigers finished with eight losses in their 10 away games last year, and the picture is less than rosy.
But regardless of the result, the fixture ensures the team gets in some tough match practice against perennial contenders for the NCAA tournament before the conference games begin. Until a loss against top-seeded rival Stanford in the round of 16 in 2010, the Bruins had appeared in seven consecutive NCAA College Cups. The game will season the Princeton squad to challenge an increasingly dominant Harvard, which has finished atop the Ivy League standings for three of the last four years.
Following the UCLA Invitational this weekend, Princeton has one more tune-up game at Lafayette on Wednesday before travelling to Yale for its first conference match of the season. While refusing to get drawn into comparisons with the Princeton teams of recent seasons, Hoy expressed optimism that the current squad can contend for the Ivy League title this year.
“Every team is different, and they have their strengths and weaknesses, things you always have to work on,” Hoy explained. “But I’m incredibly excited about this group in particular and I know we have what it takes.”
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/09/14/31104/