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Field hockey splits weekend games against Columbia and Northwestern

Two Princeton field hockey women athletes celebrating a goal on a field.
Sophomore defender Ava Dempsey celebrating the game-winning goal against Columbia on Friday evening. 
Courtesy of @TigerFH/Twitter

The  Princeton field hockey team (3–5 overall, 1–0 Ivy League) started their weekend games with an Ivy League opener on Friday against the Columbia Lions (3–5, 0–2) and ended with a loss to the No. 3 Northwestern Wildcats (9–1, 2–0 Big 10) on Sunday in Illinois. After both games, the Tigers are now ranked No. 16 nationally by the NCAA.

As they have for most of the young season, the Tigers played another one-goal game against Columbia, taking the Lions down 2–1 at home on Bedford Field. The Tigers came into the match feeling confident as they had won 24 of their last 25 meetings against the Lions, with the only loss being in 2014. 

Princeton came out strong during the contest. While Columbia had possession early on, the Tigers were able to eliminate their opponents’ chances of a shot on goal. Within two minutes, the Tigers were back up the field in scoring position after sophomore forward Talia Schenck made an impressive interception just outside the circle.

The Lions had an opportunity to get on the board first when they drew a corner five minutes into the game, but the Tiger defense held strong. Seconds later Princeton had regained control and drove it up the field, but was met with the Columbia defense. The Lions would regain possession and set up for an inbound play, but lost the ball to Schenck who wove through a wide-open defense for the first goal of the game.

Throughout the remainder of the half, neither team were able to find the back of the net. Princeton’s corners were not as consistent as they typically are against the Lions. With three minutes left in the first quarter, Princeton had the opportunity to put in another goal with a corner, but the Lion’s defense remained sealed tight. The Tigers had another shot seconds later, but the entry pass popped off the stick of senior Tiger defender Sam Davidson, and the ball went outside the circle again. The Tigers had two more corners before the end of the period but were not able to capitalize off of either.

In the second and third quarters, Princeton continued to put pressure on the Lions but came up scoreless. It was the fourth quarter that saw the most nail-biting action for the Ivy League opener. Princeton had yet another opportunity with a corner, and after a strong kick away by Columbia’s goalie Katie Wimmer, first-year defender Ottilie Sykes kept the ball in play to keep the momentum with the Tigers.

Five minutes into the fourth quarter however, the Lions found themselves in front of the Princeton defense, and a shot was fired to the top left corner, making its way into the net past senior goalie Robyn Thompson. But the Tigers were eager to get the lead back and resist overtime before they had to head to Illinois. 

With only ten minutes left and a tied scoreboard, the Tigers looked to gain their momentum back. The next five minutes saw a lot of back and forth play between the teams. Finally, Schenck found her way into the circle and made a great pass to sophomore defender Ava Dempsey, who shot one from the top of the circle, and off a deflection, the ball found its way into the net to seal the Tiger win.

“I think that our performance improved because of the energy and confidence we brought to the game which helped us to connect better,” Schenck wrote to The Daily Princetonian. “A lot of our first half opportunities came from our pressing having more urgency and we were able to create more turnovers. Lastly, I think we got more rhythm on our outlet and the mids were sending great through balls that set us forward up with lots of room to attack.”

The win gave Princeton a strong start to their Ivy League campaign which they hope to repeat in 2023 as conference champions. The day after the Columbia win, the Tigers would head to Evanston, Illinois to play Northwestern. 

Unfortunately for the Tigers, the results of the game against Northwestern were not in their favor. The No. 3 team in the country took down the Tigers 4–0 on their home field. This was Princeton’s largest loss of the season. 

On Sunday morning, both teams set out with aggression in the first quarter. Only three minutes in, Northwestern scored their first goal off of a corner, catching the Princeton defense off guard. A little while later, senior forward Liz Agatucci sent an impressive reverse shot just a little wide of the goal.

Northwestern found another opportunity in the second quarter when they fired another corner into the net, extending their lead to two. The Wildcats made two more great shots, one in each of the third and fourth quarters to finish off the Tigers with a four-point lead.

Although the Tigers could not put anything up on the board, Thompson made 14 impressive saves, a new career high compared to her previous 11.

The Tigers will face Cornell for their second Ivy League game at home on Friday, Sept. 29 at 4 p.m. on Bedford Field. The game will be streamed on ESPN+. While they have not been successful in non-conference play, head coach Carla Tagliente and her squad will look to continue their 10-game Ivy win streak dating back to Oct. 23, 2021. 

Schenck and the team are excited for the rest of Ivy League play. She put it best, “The team is excited and confident for the rest of Ivy play. I think it is going to help us to play with a chip on our shoulder and we’re ready to prove that we are very skilled and still a top team despite our record.”

Evelyn Walsh is a contributor to the Sports section for the ‘Prince.’

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