Field Hockey: No. 2 Princeton to face Drexel in NCAAs
The No. 2 Tigers (17-1 overall, 7-0 Ivy League) finished the regular season undefeated in conference play and won the Ivy League for an eighth straight time, but they are not yet satisfied and hope to continue their successful season with a long run in the NCAAs. The Tigers have a strong history of earning a bid to the postseason tournament, including appearances in their last eight seasons. Princeton has posted a 17-16 all-time record in NCAA play, reaching the Final Four five times and playing in two championship games.
Princeton has never won a national championship, but using the positive momentum from a successful regular season, the team has a chance to take home its first crown this year.
“This weekend, we will focus on playing the way we’ve been playing all season,” senior striker and co-captain Kat Sharkey said. “We are going to try to come out very strong in the first half and set the pace of the game early. We will need to bring intensity for the entire 70 minutes in order to get the win.”
For the last 10 weeks, the Tigers have proved themselves to be a fierce opponent on both ends of the field. The Princeton team boasts the best goals against average, .94, of all Division I teams. Only two other teams ended the regular season with one loss, No. 1 North Carolina and Lafayette.
After defeating seven nationally ranked teams, the Tigers are prepared to face more top opponents in the postseason.
“The key to our success this year has been our teamwork,” Sharkey said. “We attack as a unit, and we defend as a unit. We are a very close team off the field, and I think that’s created a special bond among all of us. Our passing combinations have improved so much since the beginning of the year. We know each others’ tendencies on and off the ball, which makes it really easy to play with each other.”
Leading the charge offensively all season for Princeton has been Sharkey, the program’s all-time leading scorer, who leads the nation with 32 goals this year. Also making significant contributions for the Tigers’ attack is sophomore striker Allison Evans, the team’s second-leading scorer who has netted 11 goals. Senior midfielder Katie Reinprecht has tallied 15 assists, the highest on the team.
As the last line of defense behind a solid back line, junior goalkeeper Christina Maida has only allowed 14 goals this season, making 44 saves and helping the team record eight shutouts.
Drexel (15-6) and Princeton have met only five times before, with the Tigers taking all five games. In their last regular-season matchup in 2003, Princeton won 5-1.
The Dragons enter the postseason with their first automatic bid and second overall NCAA appearance in program history. After finishing in a tie for second in the Colonial Athletic Association, Drexel came back to win its first CAA conference tournament. Their last NCAA appearance came in 2009, when they beat Connecticut in the first round before falling to top-seeded Maryland.
Making headlines for the Dragons is their midfield duo of Amanda Fleischut and Lindsay McArdle, who have 23 goals and 11 assists combined. In goal, Drexel has Jantien Gunter, who has stopped 116 shots and averages 1.52 goals allowed per game.
“I know their players are very strong, skilled and athletic, so I know it will be a tough game,” Sharkey said. “They’re very well coached, and I’m sure they will have a solid structure. We’ll be working hard in practice this week to prepare for the game.”
This year, the Tigers and Dragons have faced off against several common opponents, which may offer insights into Saturday’s matchup. Princeton and Drexel both opened the season with victories over No. 22 Duke, and both teams have also played against Delaware, with the Tigers dominating 10-2 and Drexel splitting its two games. Princeton blanked Columbia 8-0, while the Dragons squeaked out a 1-0 win over the Lions; and Princeton won 6-0 against Lafayette, which beat Drexel 2-1 in mid-September.
The winner of Princeton and Drexel will face off against either No. 7 Virginia or No. 14 Iowa on Sunday. Whichever team takes Sunday’s game will advance to the Final Four, which takes place next weekend.
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