When sophomore striker Allison Evans found herself alone with the ball behind the opposing defense five minutes into the second half, the field hockey team was in a scoreless tie with American University. After Eagles goalkeeper Ashley Dalisera saved a shot from freshman midfielder Teresa Benvenuti, Evans tapped in the easy chance to break the tie and give Princeton a lead it would keep for the rest of the game.
On the strength of Evans’ shot and a goal from senior striker Kat Sharkey off an assist from Evans, Princeton (10-1 overall, 3-0 Ivy League) dominated American (5-8) by a final score of 2-0 before a home crowd of 486 at Bedford Field.
Although Sharkey and Evans provided the offensive fireworks, the story of the game was Princeton’s smothering defense, anchored by senior back Amy Donovan. The Tigers stifled and stymied the Eagles all game, catapulting Princeton to a commanding 22-2 advantage in shots and 10-1 advantage in shots on goal for the game.
However, despite the Tigers’ suffocating play in the first half, the offense struggled to put points on the board in the first 35 minutes. Even with a 9-1 shot advantage and an overwhelming 8-0 penalty corner differential in the opening period, Princeton was unable to subdue American’s resilient bend-but-don’t-break defense.
Bolstered by stellar goalkeeping from Dalisera, the Eagles managed to turn away a flurry of Tiger attacks. Dalisera notched four saves in the first period to keep the Eagles afloat heading into halftime.
But 40 minutes in, Princeton struck on what was perhaps its best opportunity of the game. A penalty corner from junior midfielder Julia Reinprecht ended up with Benvenuti, who launched a shot at Dalisera. The ball rebounded toward the right post, and Evans nudged it into the back of the net for her fifth goal of the season and a 1-0 Princeton lead.
“I think once that first goal comes, it becomes a very different game in the sense that the opponent is chasing,” head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn said.
Indeed, after Evans’ goal, the Tigers’ offense continued to apply pressure, moving the ball around with precision and launching a barrage of shots that required some brilliant saves from Dalisera.
Eventually, though, Princeton’s offensive intensity was too much for the Eagles to bottle up. With 12 minutes left to play, Sharkey took a pass from Evans from the top of the circle and rocketed a shot past a diving Dalisera, burying it in the far post for a 2-0 Princeton lead and the final score of the game.
Sharkey, the Tigers’ unquestioned offensive leader, has returned after a year away from the program. Along with Julia Reinprecht, senior midfielder Katie Reinprecht and junior striker Michelle Cesan, Sharkey spent last year training with the U.S. national team in preparation for the London Olympics this past summer.
The team is certainly happy to have Sharkey back, as her 21 goals this season have paced Princeton’s attack and account for nearly 43 percent of the Tigers’ scores. Through 11 games, Sharkey, the Reinprechts and Cesan have combined to score 31 of Princeton’s 49 goals and have totaled 27 of the team’s 39 assists.
By the time the final whistle blew, Princeton had successfully defended its home turf by grounding the pesky Eagles. The game was the Tigers’ third shutout of the season and reinforced Princeton’s standing as one of the most formidable teams in the nation, both offensively and defensively.
The Tigers will look to continue their dominance of the Ivy League this Saturday with a matchup against Brown at Bedford Field at noon.
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/10/09/31423/