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Men’s soccer looks to start out strong in Ivy League play against co-league champ Dartmouth

After riding a string of strong results, the men’s soccer team will travel to Hanover this weekend to take on Dartmouth in their Ivy League play opener.

The Tigers (3-2-1 overall), after hitting some bumps early on in the season, appear to have hit their stride. They beat two of their last three opponents and drew the third, a tough 1-1 overtime bout against then No. 19-ranked American University.

Indeed, the Tigers’ aforementioned bumps — they went 0-2 in an early season road trip through Florida – have allowed them to understand themselves better as a team moving forward.

“When we went down to Florida and lost those two games, they were both very, very close contests,” senior goalkeeper Ben Hummel explained. “We figured out a lot of things about ourselves, which was how can we put together 90 minutes of soccer. In each game, we had a really, really good half, but we couldn’t quite put together a full game. They were good teams, and that forced us to improve.”

Good teams indeed — one of the losses, a 1-2 loss in which Princeton initially held the lead, was against Florida International University, currently ranked No. 14 in the NCAA. This Tiger team certainly has to have fans excited after showing they can compete with some of the best teams in the nation.

“We realized that we are a very good team and we can play with the best teams in the nation,” senior forward Tom Sanner said. “We knew what the standard should be. We know that we have the players and the talent to compete with the best.”

Armed with this knowledge, the Tigers have a chance to show they’re the team to beat in the Ivy League. The game against the Big Green (3-3-1 overall) has been on the Tigers’ minds for a long time now. It was the loss to Dartmouth last year — a thriller that came down to a header in the 93rdminute — that ultimately prevented the Tigers from moving on to the NCAA tournament.

“We’ve been waiting a long time,” Hummel said. “We felt like we got robbed of an opportunity to make an impact in the tournament last year. There are some really boiled over emotions ready to explode.”

With the chance to play each team only once this season, every game counts tremendously for the Tigers, as they try to make the tournament for the first time since the 2010 season. A chance to capture a huge win — and on the Big Green’s home turf, no less — is a dream start for the Princeton squad playing with a chip on its shoulder.

For the Tigers, the game both serves as a chance to establish and redeem themselves.

“We have to realize that every single game in the Ivy League could be the difference between getting in the tournament or not,” Sanner said.

“It’s the most important game of our season by far,” senior midfielder Nico Hurtado said. “We know it’s going to be really intense … we’re really excited to have the opportunity to play them again.”

Women’s soccer travels to Hanover looking to repeat success in league play

Princeton couldn’t have asked for a better start to league play. Now, the women’s soccer team hopes to follow one dominating victory with another as it travels to Hanover to face the Dartmouth Big Green.

The Tigers (6-3 overall, 1-0 Ivy League) have found their stride after hitting a rough patch earlier in the season. After losing three straight games at home and falling to 2-3, they have since won four straight games, including an overtime thriller over then-No. 23 ranked William & Mary. Most recently, they dominated league rival Yale (3-4-2, 0-1) 3-0 at Roberts Stadium.

It’s clear that an uptick in offensive performance has been key. After averaging just under .7 goals per game through their losing streak, the Tigers are now finding the back of the net an average of three times per game during this win streak. Indeed, with its improved offense, the team finds itself in the top 20 teams across the NCAA for goals per game.

Indeed, dropping those games at home seems to have lit a fire in this Tiger team as it prepares for a crucial part of the season.

“The urgency needs to be better,” junior forward Tyler Lussi said. “We didn’t want to have that losing feeling at the end of the game, where we put one half together but it didn’t pay off for the full game.”

Of course, no small part of the improvement has been the scoring of Lussi herself. She has followed up a stellar sophomore campaign with another excellent season, scoring eight goals on the year so far. She was in exquisite form against the Bulldogs, bagging two goals on the day.

While Lussi may dominate the goal scoring, the Tigers have their fair share of players who know how to set others up. Sophomore midfielder Vanessa Gregoire and junior defender Jesse McDonough are two such players, as both rank in the Ivy League’s top five for assists on the season — Gregoire with five, McDonough with four.

This ability to score will be crucial against a team like Dartmouth. The Big Green (7-1-2, 0-0-1), last year’s runner-up to the Ivy League crown, boasts one of the most stalwart defenses in the NCAA. They’ve been allowing .383 goals per game so far. Interestingly enough, this is good for only second in the Ivy League, behind Cornell University’s .096 goals allowed per game.

“They’re going to be confident,” Lussi said when addressing the strength of the Dartmouth defense this season. But I think that if we continue our urgency, and continue attacking well ... we're going to come out with a win.

Moreover, the Tigers hope to end their losing streak in Hanover, where they have not won since the 2007 season.

“Even though it is an away game, and that’s always a challenge, I think that if we stick together and play our game, and not get stuck into playing their game, we’re going to come out with the win,” Lussi said.

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