Just one year ago, the Princeton women’s soccer team had an Ivy League record of 1-4 and was headed toward a sixth-place finish in the conference. Its 10 overall losses that year were the second most in program history. This year, however, has been a different story.
With two games remaining in the regular season, the Tigers (11-3-1 overall, 5-0 Ivy League) sit alone atop the Ivy League standings and are in control of their own destiny. A win over Cornell this Saturday, followed up by one against Penn the next week, will guarantee Princeton the outright Ivy League title and an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament. How could a team that lost 10 games last year now already have 10 wins this year with still games to play?
“I actually thought we had a good team last year, we just didn’t have consistent scoring,” head coach Julie Shackford said. “Having a legitimate goal-scorer has made the world of difference for us and a couple of people have stepped up on the attack to help us be more consistent and win close games.”
The consistent goal-scorer that Shackford is referring to is senior forward Jen Hoy.
Hoy, who only netted eight goals last season, already has 17 this year, and is threatening to break Princeton’s single-season record of 20 which was set by assistant coach Esmeralda Negron ’05.
The Tigers have also benefited from the play of a number of returning players. Players who received limited time as freshmen last year such as midfielder Jessica Haley, midfielder Lauren Lazo, and forward Liana Cornacchio have all stepped up this year as sophomores and are among the team’s leaders in assists.
All of these things coupled with the experience and leadership of eight seniors have brought the Tigers to where they are now. Princeton will be looking to extend its winning streak to 10 straight games when it takes the field against Cornell (1-12-1, 0-4-1) this weekend up in Ithaca.
The Big Red may be in last place, but all of its Ivy losses have been close games decided by just one goal. The Tigers will need to keep an eye on forward Maneesha Chitanvis, the Big Red’s leading scorer.
On the offensive side, Princeton will face goalie Tori Christ who leads the league in goals saved with 75. With a win, the Tigers will at least be guaranteed a share of the Ivy League title.
The following week, Prince -ton will face second-place Penn (8-5-1, 4-1) in what may be a crucial game to determine which team receives the automatic bid. This scenario will occur if both the Tigers and the Quakers win their games this week. Penn’s only Ivy loss came at the hands of Dartmouth, which Princeton beat 2-1 earlier this season.
Penn does not have a clear goal-scorer as eight players are responsible for the team’s 19 goals which could make the Quakers hard to defend. Penn goalie Sarah Banks is also one of the top Ivy goalies as her 0.86 goals-against average is the third lowest in the league.
The Tigers have not achieved this type of success in several years. 2008 was the last year in which Princeton won the Ivy League title, and the Tigers haven’t gone 5-0 in Ivy League play since 2004. If Princeton wins its remaining two games, it will be following in the footsteps of the 2004 team that made it all the way to the NCAA semifinals.
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/10/26/31634/