Field Hockey: Players reflect on NCAA title game
One week after earning the first national title in Ivy League history, members of the field hockey team shared their reflections on the final game and the aftermath of an NCAA championship.
On Friday, Nov. 16, Princeton defeated Maryland in overtime to reach the championship game against top-ranked North Carolina. That was not enough for any of the Tigers, however, as they prepared for the biggest game of their careers that Sunday.
Senior striker Kat Sharkey: “The Maryland game was pretty mentally exhausting, as well as physically. Right after the game, we just wanted to clear our heads, so we went out for dinner as a team. On Saturday, we had some free time to relax again before we regrouped for our team practice ... I think everyone was confident before the UNC game. This was the moment that we had been waiting for the entire season, and we were physically ready as well as mentally.”
Sophomore striker Allison Evans: “After celebrating our victory over Maryland, we knew we had a lot of work to do to become champions. We had never played UNC before, so our coaches went through hours and hours of video to prepare a game plan. The entire team was extremely excited yet focused on the final goal at the same time. I knew if we gave it our all in the final game, there was some way we could pull out a win.”
Junior goalkeeper Christina Maida: “We wanted to just keep a good mindset, which is what we’ve learned throughout the entire year, and so we weren’t going to let it slip away in the last game. We all got a lot of sleep the night before and just tried so hard to have a lot of energy for the entire game.”
The team faced its fair share of adversity before and throughout the game in the form of injuries.
Maida: “From the start we had to make the adjustment when [freshman midfielder] Teresa Benvenuti hurt her hamstring during warm-ups. [Senior striker] Molly Goodman came in and played really well until she tore her ACL during the game, but we weren’t going to let any kind of adversity keep us from winning the game.”
The two teams were evenly matched for the majority of the game, but the Tigers took a 3-2 lead on junior defender Amanda Bird’s penalty stroke with about 10 minutes to go.
Maida: “When it was 3-2, that was the longest 10 minutes of all of our lives. They had a lot of momentum in the last couple of minutes, and they actually had two or three penalty corners in a row in the last 30 or 40 seconds, which was our last chance to have to hold them off. We definitely didn’t want to have to go into overtime because, as strong as our overtime team is, they definitely have a strong team too, so we really wanted to win it in regulation. When I heard that final buzzer, I threw off my helmet and my arm pads, and I just started sprinting toward my team. It was like a dream; it was the most incredible feeling I’ve ever felt. It was awesome.”
Sharkey: “It was just so crazy because even as the time was ticking down with those last few seconds UNC still had the ball, so we had to play the game out until that last second. When that buzzer rang and I realized we had won the national championship, we all just went crazy. Everyone was so happy and so excited, and it was just the culmination of so much hard work this entire season and throughout my entire career at Princeton. It didn’t really hit me, but it’s starting to hit me now that I finished my career. I couldn’t be happier to say that I finished it with a national championship, though.”
Evans: “I don’t know if it still has fully hit me. The celebration after the game was a truly amazing experience. No one could really believe that we had actually reached our highest goal. Going back to campus was awesome because everyone was just so supportive and happy for our team.”
The Tigers had to make a six-hour trip back to Princeton, which they said was the best bus ride they had ever experienced.
Senior midfielder Katie Reinprecht: “It was the happiest, most energized bus ride of my career. The six or so hours back to campus seemed to go by in a flash. We recounted memories from the entire season and rehashed moments of the championship game. And of course, there was also plenty of music, some dancing and photo ops with the trophy.”
Sharkey: “The bus ride home was so fun. It was the longest six hours, but we did not run out of things to talk about. Everyone was just huddled in the back of the bus. Some of us were talking with family and friends back home. It was just an awesome bus ride home, and I’m kind of happy that it was long because it gave us time to spend together as a team one last time.”
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