Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 35
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
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PYROTECHNICS: Princeton University field hockey star Alyssa Pyros controls the ball in a game last fall. The Tigers will need a big year from senior midfielder Pyros, an honorable mention All-Ivy League performer in 2010, as they look to win a seventh straight Ivy League title. Princeton opens regular season play this weekend by playing at Bucknell University on September 2 and at American University two days later.

Despite 4 Top Guns Spending Year With U.S. Team, PU Field Hockey Still Shooting to Extend Ivy Reign

Bill Alden

They were the core four of the Princeton University field hockey team last fall as it won its sixth straight Ivy League title and advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals.

The quartet of Kathleen Sharkey, Michelle Cesan and the Reinprecht sisters, Julia and Katie, scored 61 of Princeton’s 81 goals in the 14-5 campaign and were all slated to be in action for the Tigers this fall.

But with USA field hockey plucking the standouts for its national program, the players are taking a year off from school to train with the team full-time in preparation for a shot at the Olympics.

While some coaches may bemoan their fate if they lost their four top performers, Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn is relishing the situation.

“I just love to coach; I would be happy coaching the second grade team,” said Holmes-Winn, who is entering her ninth season at the helm of the Tigers and has compiled a 100-48 record with seven Ivy titles, three trips to the NCAA quarterfinals, and one NCAA Final 4 appearance.

“It is an awesome challenge; I am really excited to help our players achieve what they are capable of.”

Holmes-Winn does acknowledge that she will have to tweak her tactical approach to deal with the absence of the four stars.

“It’s obviously a lot to absorb; they scored a majority of our points last year,” said Holmes-Winn, who has guided Princeton to 24 straight wins in Ivy play since a 4-3 loss to Cornell ion September 29, 2007.

“We don’t have the dynamic and overall speed that they bring. We will be changing things slightly but it still comes down to who traps and passes the best and the same things that win games.”

In the view of Holmes-Winn, the remaining players have to be ready to do take advantage of their increased roles.

“That is how we framed the season; it will be a challenge and they need to be up for the challenge everyday,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team is ranked seventh in the Kookaburra/NFHCA Division I Preseason Poll.

“When you have the level of talent we had last year, it’s easy for peripheral players to go on cruise control. This year, everyone has to play to the best of their ability all the time.”

With the Tigers losing so much firepower, they will have to play smarter offensively.

“We have to do subtle things in the circle; getting them in the know goal-scoring spots to take advantage of rebounds and good angles,” explained Holmes-Winn.

“One of the things that we need is to have the players play within their means; getting everything out of their capabilities. They need to do things as well as they can as often as they can.”

The Tigers will be relying on a mix of young guns and veterans to excel in the circle as Holmes-Winn is looking at freshmen Allison Evans and Sydney Kirby together with seniors Rachel Neufeld (4 goals and 4 assists in 2010), Molly Goodman (six goals), and Allison Behringer (2 goals) up front.

“Evans is really good; Kirby is a midfielder/back by trade but has gifts we can use in the circle,” added Holmes-Winn.

“Rachel and Molly need to do what they do well. We like to play Allison Behringer in midfield but may need to use her in the circle.”

As for the Tiger midfield, Holmes-Winn is counting on seniors Alyssa Pyros and Erin Jennings together with sophomores Amanda Bird and Kelsey Byrne to step up.

“The midfield has scoring capability coming through it,” said Holmes-Winn. “Pyros and Jennings have to be huge. Amanda Bird is good at striking corners. Byrne is coming back from an ACL injury that sidelined her all of last year; she is a terrific midfielder.”

The Princeton backline will feature some veteran talent in senior May-Ying Medalia together with sophomores Amy Donovan and Charlotte Krause

“May-Ying hasn’t had a lot of games because of injury but she will help,” said Holmes-Winn of former Princeton High standout Medalia.

“Donovan has experience and did well last year. Krause is a sophomore from Germany who was hurt in the beginning of last year.”

Princeton is fully stocked with talent in goalie with the return of sophomore star Christine Maida and the arrival of freshman Julia Boyle.

“Maida has been showing progress,” said Holmes-Winn of the netminder who posted a 1.20 goals against average last year. “She is good at communications and leadership; she has a very balanced skill set. Boyle will be the back-up. She is very cool-headed and really tall; she covers a lot of the net.”

In opening regular season action this weekend by playing at Bucknell University on September 2 and at American University two days later, the Tigers will need to show some balance.

“Bucknell has a great coaching staff and they will have a plan for the game,” said Holmes-Winn.

“It is great for us to play against a team with structure like that. It is the same thing with American; they have really good coaching and they are a balanced team. From top to bottom, they are very skilled. It will be good for us to see where we are at.”

In the view of Holmes-Winn, Princeton could be in a good place by the end of the fall.

“We have a ton of potential; it is going to take time to get all of the pieces together,” said Holmes-Winn.

“We are going to have some big ups and downs and we need to stick together through all of that. We judge ourselves by how we are at the end of the season; it will take time to for us to mature as a group.”

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