Field Hockey: Offensive firepower propels Tigers to Final Four
The No. 2 field hockey team continued its recent hot streak with a 5-0 blowout of No. 15 Drexel in the first round of the NCAA tournament to earn a matchup with No. 7 Virginia. In Sunday’s quarterfinal, Princeton (19-1 overall, 7-0 Ivy League) beat the Cavaliers 5-2, advancing to the national semifinals for the sixth time in program history.
Against the Dragons (15-7) on Saturday, senior striker Kat Sharkey found junior defender Amanda Bird alone off a penalty corner in the 10th minute, and Bird converted for a 1-0 lead. Despite a dominant 8-2 edge in penalty corners and a 10-2 shot advantage, the Tigers went into the break with only a lone goal to show for their aggressive offensive efforts, thanks to excellent defense by Drexel’s back line and four saves from Dragons goalkeeper Jantien Gunter.
After the break, the Tigers exploded offensively, tacking on four goals to bring their final margin of victory to five. Sharkey played an important role in two of Princeton’s second-half goals, as she assisted sophomore midfielder Sydney Kirby’s goal shortly after halftime and scored one of her own in the game’s waning minutes.
Junior midfielder Julia Reinprecht also chipped in, feeding Kirby for a goal off a penalty corner and sending a pass to her sister, senior midfielder Katie Reinprecht, who assisted Sharkey’s 33rd goal of the season. Freshman midfielder Teresa Benvenuti scored Princeton’s other goal on a rebound of her own shot.
In the end, the Tigers outshot the Dragons 28-5, led in penalty corners by a 13-3 margin and moved on to a showdown with regional host Virginia on Sunday.
Just one minute, nine seconds into its quarterfinal game with Virginia (16-6), Princeton found itself staring at a 1-0 deficit. After the Cavaliers were awarded a penalty corner on their first offensive possession, junior goalkeeper Christina Maida made a nice save on the initial shot, only to see the rebound fall to the stick of Virginia’s Rachel Sumfest. Sumfest put away the chance to give Virginia an early lead.
This marked the first time the Tigers have trailed since the first half of their game against No. 6 Maryland on Oct. 2, a span of nine complete games. It also was the earliest goal surrendered by the Tigers all season.
The Tigers did not trail for long, equalizing less than three minutes later. Benvenuti threaded a pass from the edge of the circle to Kirby, who lifted a shot over Virginia goalkeeper Jenny Johnstone to knot the score at 1-1.
Just a minute later, Virginia’s Elly Buckley scored off another penalty corner, putting the Tigers in an unfamiliar position with a 2-1 hole. The deficit marked the first time Princeton allowed multiple goals in a game since facing Maryland, as the Tigers surrendered only 16 goals in the season’s first 19 games. Princeton’s defense had been especially dominant since the Maryland game, allowing a total of two goals in nine games.
The Tigers bounced back again, though. In the 10th minute, Benvenuti took Julia Reinprecht’s penalty corner and fed Kirby, whose shot from the top of the circle slid past Johnstone to tie the game 2-2.
Princeton dominated the final hour of play. Katie Reinprecht scored in the 17th minute off an assist from Bird to give the Tigers the lead for good. Sharkey added two goals in the second half to put the game out of reach.
For the game, Sharkey took 12 shots, as many as the entire Virginia team. She brought her season total to 35 goals through 20 games, a mark that leads the nation and bested her own Princeton record of 33 goals in a season.
The Tigers, the tournament’s second seed, moved on and will face a pesky Maryland (18-5) squad on Friday in the NCAA Final Four at Old Dominion. The Terrapins upset third-seeded Connecticut 2-1 in the quarterfinal round to advance in the tournament. The last time Princeton reached the semifinals, in 2009, Maryland ended its season with a 7-5 win.
The other Final Four matchup features top seed North Carolina and No. 5 Syracuse, the only team to beat the Tigers this year.