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Women’s soccer knocked out of NCAA tournament in overtime loss to TCU, 3–2

<h5>The women’s soccer team, pictured here, advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament last weekend.</h5>
<h6>Natalia Maidique / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
The women’s soccer team, pictured here, advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament last weekend.
Natalia Maidique / The Daily Princetonian

Women’s soccer made the short trip to Rutgers University’s Yurcak Field in Piscataway, N.J., on Friday to take on the No. 4 seed Texas Christian University Horned Frogs (18–2–2, 7–1–1 Big 12) in the second round of the NCAA Division 1 tournament. The trip to Yurcak was the Tigers’ second of the year, as they beat current No. 1 seed Rutgers 4–3 on Sept. 9. They did not have the same luck this time around, suffering a heartbreaking 3–2 loss to TCU in overtime.

The Tigers (15–2–1, 6–1 Ivy) came into the game having won 10 of their last 11 matches, with the lone loss being to the eventual Ivy League champions, Brown. At the end of the conference season, the NCAA’s selection committee deemed the Tigers talented enough to take part in the tournament despite them not securing an auto-bid by winning the league, an honor rarely given to Ivy League teams. The last team from the Ivy League to qualify for the NCAA tournament in this manner was the 2008 Tigers squad. The appearance was head coach Sean Driscoll’s 4th in his six-season tenure with the team.

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The Tigers, who hadn’t allowed a goal in five consecutive league matches since the loss against Brown, proved the committee right, easily handling the University of Vermont Catamounts 2–0 at Sherrerd Field on Nov. 12, earning a spot in the second round of the tournament. TCU hadn’t lost in 12 matches coming into the game, with their last defeat being against Baylor University on Sept. 26. The two schools had met just once previously, when the Tigers defeated TCU 3–1 in 1990.

The game opened with both teams challenging the opposing defense, as Princeton’s junior defender Madison Curry made a strong run down the left side, which culminated in a shot on goal. Shortly afterwards, senior goalkeeper Grace Barbara was forced into a tough save, deflecting a TCU shot off of the crossbar and out of play.

The Tigers continued to threaten TCU throughout the first half, as Curry, sophomore midfielder Aria Nagai, and sophomore forward Alexis Hiltunen all got good looks at goal. Nagai even saw one of her shots tipped off of the crossbar by the TCU keeper.

Towards the end of the first half, after TCU had forced Barbara into a diving save to her right, Nagai stole the ball from TCU on the left wing and located first-year midfielder Lily Bryant inside the box. Bryant coolly slotted the ball away in between the Horned Frogs’ goalkeeper and the near post, giving the Tigers a 1–0 lead 35 minutes in.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, they were unable to achieve the same potency in their attack at the beginning of the second half, and TCU threatened to score repeatedly. Barbara once again made a massive save, this time against TCU’s forward Camryn Lancaster. Lancaster was able to locate the Horned Frogs’ star forward Messiah Bright, who fired a powerful shot into the back of the net to equalize with just 20 minutes remaining.

Immediately, the Tigers responded by bringing numbers forward, and just two minutes later, sophomore forward Jen Estes scored to put Princeton back in the lead, 2–1. TCU’s attack roared back to life, as Bright continued to find holes in the defense. An important tackle from Curry kept Bright from succeeding on one of her most dangerous chances, but with just three minutes remaining, Bright shot a pass from TCU midfielder Oli Pena right by Princeton’s Barbara, sending the match to overtime.

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In overtime, Barbara was the hero, making save after save to keep the match level. The NCAA plays with a golden goal overtime, meaning that the match ends immediately if a team scores in either 15-minute period, making Barbara’s performance all the more crucial.

Princeton succeeded in keeping the score level through the first 15-minute period, but with 4:27 left in overtime, Bright found an opening from close range, and fired a shot which Barbara had no chance to save, giving TCU the 3–2 win, and sending the Tigers home in defeat.

This was the second loss by one goal for the Tigers soccer program this week, as the men lost 1–0 in Jamaica, N.Y. against St. John’s University in their first-round match Thursday, Nov. 18. TCU now advances to play Rutgers in the Sweet 16.

Wilson Conn is a staff writer for the ‘Prince’ sports section. He can be reached at wconn@princeton.edu or on twitter at @wilson_conn.

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