Women's Soccer: Road stretch opens with pair of losses
After playing its first four games in the comfort of Roberts Stadium, the women’s soccer team started a five-game road trip this weekend with a visit out West to compete in the UCLA Soccer Classic in Los Angeles.
The tournament, featuring some of the top teams in the nation, came at the perfect time for the Tigers who came in riding a two-game winning streak led by one of the hottest scorers in the nation senior forward Jen Hoy. Princeton looked poised to take one away from its stiffest competition to date, but the Tigers ended up dropping both of their two games, bringing their overall record to 2-3-1.
Princeton started the tournament with a match on Friday against No. 3-ranked University of California, Los Angeles (7-0-1). It was the second time the Tigers faced a nationally ranked opponent after losing 2-1 in their season opener to then-No. 15 Wake Forest. While Princeton held its own and almost pulled off an upset against the Demon Deacons, the undefeated Bruins posed a much bigger challenge as they caught the Tigers off guard, scoring six goals by the end of the first half with the third through fifth goals coming within five minutes of each other.
“UCLA just came out and were very prepared,” Hoy said. “Everything clicked for them. We struggled a bit in the first half to respond to it, but by the second half I think we were able to talk during halftime and get a better sense of how to defend their players who had a lot of pace, and we were able to do a much better job of keeping the ball out of the net.”
The halftime talk was indeed helpful as Princeton limited UCLA to just one goal in the second half. The Tigers might have solved UCLA’s offense, but they couldn’t break their defense, managing only five shots in the 7-0 loss.
Princeton then had all of Saturday to refocus and prepare for its game against University of California, Irvine (4-6), which lost its first game as well, 4-0 to No. 18 Pepperdine. Sunday’s game thus looked to be an even matchup and a winnable one for the Tigers, who came out hot and dominated the game in the early minutes.
After two failed shot attempts, Princeton got on the board with a goal in the 11th minute when Hoy used her speed to convert a perfectly placed through ball from senior midfielder Caitlin Blosser.
Just 10 minutes later, however, the Tigers’ chances of winning took a serious blow when senior goalie Claire Pinciaro received a red card for grabbing the ball outside of the box during a UCI breakaway, forcing Princeton to continue the game with one less player. For the rest of the game, the Tigers put their primary efforts toward maintaining their lead as they fended off attack after attack from the Anteaters.
The Tiger defense stood strong with Pinciaro’s replacement, classmate Kristin Watson, making three saves to hold the lead, but the player deficit eventually took its toll on the Tigers as the Anteaters scored two goals in the final five minutes to win 2-1. The game-winning goal came when the ball rebounded from a cross directly to the feet of UCI forward Dana Sanderlin who was open on the right side of the box.
The loss to UCI was a real heartbreaker for the Tigers, but they know they must move forward if they want to come away with a win this Wednesday when they travel to Pennsylvania to take on Lafayette.
“One of our captains, [junior midfielder] Gabriella Guzman, said we need to stay together as a team and be positive. We are going into this game very excited. It is kind of in our area so we are excited about not having a lot of travel time,” Hoy said.
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