Field Hockey: Princeton routs Quakers 7-0, secures outright Ivy crown
With a 7-0 rout of Penn on Saturday, the field hockey team completed a perfect Ivy League season and earned sole possession of the conference title. No. 2 Princeton (16-1 overall, 7-0 Ivy League), which has won at least a share of the league championship in 18 of the past 19 seasons, will now turn its focus to postseason play in the NCAA tournament, which begins this week.
Five Princeton seniors were honored before their team faced Penn (9-8, 3-4) for their final home game on a chilly morning at Bedford Field. The Tigers held the ball in their offensive zone for most of the early action, but goalie Carly Sokach and the Quakers held Princeton off the scoreboard for the first 13 minutes.
Senior striker Kat Sharkey broke the deadlock with her second shot, blowing past a Penn defender near the end line and flipping the ball into the cage. Only 36 seconds later, sophomore striker Allison Evans doubled the hosts’ lead, collecting a pass from junior striker Michelle Cesan and scoring in transition.
Evans found the net again late in the half, scoring off of a deflection less than two minutes after re-entering the game, and opened the second period with a goal off of a penalty corner, her 10th of the season. Even with a large lead, Princeton continued to pepper Sokach in the second half, taking 21 shots in the period to Penn’s three.
Sharkey saw Evans’ hat trick and did her one better, tacking on three additional goals in the second half. The senior — who leads the nation in scoring with 1.71 goals per game — needs four postseason goals to match her own Princeton record of 33 in a season, set in 2010.
“Our midfield is very strong, and they set up a lot of scoring opportunities,” Sharkey said. “This year, we have so much depth, so whoever is on the field is going to raise our number of attacking opportunities.”
With its ninth straight win, Princeton completed an undefeated Ivy League season, in which it outscored opponents by an aggregate score of 45-1. Sharkey and senior midfielder Katie Reinprecht, who sat out the 2011 season to train with the US National Team, will end their college careers with a perfect 28-0 record in conference play.
“It’s a testament to the Princeton field hockey program. When we came into it our freshman year, they were already a pretty big powerhouse,” Reinprecht said. “It’s awesome that we can say we were four-time Ivy League champions, and that we went undefeated as well.”
As the only Division I team allowing less than one goal per game — and with the nation’s second-best scoring average at 4.71 goals per game — the Tigers will enter NCAA competition on the short list of favorites to claim the national title.
No. 1 North Carolina will likely be the top seed for a second straight year — the Tar Heels reached the 2011 championship before losing to Maryland — and No. 3 Syracuse handed Princeton its only loss. But the Tigers own victories over the four teams currently ranked fourth through seventh.
“We’ve played a number of the top teams this season, and I think we’re going to be coming up against those opponents again in the postseason,” Sharkey said. “Everyone on our team, except the freshmen, has played in some very intense NCAA tournament games, so I think that’ll definitely help us.”
Princeton will face the Patriot League champion, No. 12 Lafayette, in an NCAA Play-In Game on Tuesday before learning their full tournament draw at 8 p.m. that evening. The play-in game determines which team receives an automatic bid to the 16-team tournament, but the Tigers would almost certainly receive one of the eight at-large bids if they slipped up against the Leopards.
“We’re really excited,” Reinprecht said. “It’s crazy that it’s already the postseason, but it’s definitely something we’re looking forward to.”