Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 35
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
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AHEAD OF THE PACK: Princeton University men’s soccer star Antoine Hoppenot races up the field last fall. Senior striker Hoppenot, a Princeton resident and former Princeton Day School standout, is coming off a brilliant season which saw him earn Ivy League Player of the Year honors as the Tigers went undefeated in league play. Hoppenot and the Tigers kick off their 2011 campaign when they head to Charleston, S.C. to play at the College of Charleston on September 2 and Furman two days later in the NIKE/Aaron Olitsky Memorial Soccer Classic.

Hoppenot’s Brilliance Makes Him a Marked Man As PU Men’s Soccer Kicks Off Ivy Title Defense

Bill Alden

Antoine Hoppenot comes into the fall as a marked man for the Princeton University men’s soccer team.

After being named as the Ivy League Player of the Year last fall when the Tigers went 7-0 in league play, the senior striker has garnered a slew of preseason recognition entering the 2011 campaign.

The electrifying 5’8 145-pound Hoppenot has been chosen as a preseason All-American by two organizations in addition to being named to the Hermann Trophy Watch List and ranked No. 6 on Joe Mauceri’s Big Board of professional prospects.

While the Princeton resident and former Princeton Day School star realizes that there is a big bull’s eye on his back, he doesn’t feel burdened by that role.

“The pressure is going to be on,” said Hoppenot, who tallied nine goals and five assists last year as Princeton went 13-4-1 overall.

“I think that will open things up for the others. We have the talent to fill the gaps left by graduation. We have some good returners and some good guys coming in.”

The team’s balance helped it excel last fall. “It was hard for other teams to mark me,” said Hoppenot, who will be joined this fall by such returning veteran stars as classmates Colby Hahn and Manny Sardinha together with juniors Matt Sanner and Mark Linnville and sophomores Chris Benedict and Patrick O’Neil. “We had so many other players with goals and assists.”

In the early stages of 2010, it didn’t look like the Tigers were on track to achieve their goals as they started 1-3-1.

“It was a little concerning, but one of our best players, Josh Walburn, was out with injury, “ said Hoppenot. “The way we played completely changed after he came back.”

In Hoppenot’s view, the tide changed for the Tigers when they rallied for a 3-1 win over Richmond in their annual Princeton Invitational.

“We were down 1-0 to Richmond at half,” recalled Hoppenot, who scored two goals in the victory.

“At halftime, players were saying this is ridiculous, let’s play the way we know how. We came out and played to win in the second half.”

Princeton kept winning, reeling off a program-record streak of 12 straight victories on the way to its perfect Ivy campaign.

“We were playing really well; we were in good form,” said Hoppenot. “Our seniors held us together and kept our feet on the ground. They had us focus on winning each game and not looking ahead. Going 7-0 was unbelievable. It was really exciting; we went out knowing we could win every game. There was an element of luck in the road games but we played really well.”

In its 2-1 loss to Maryland-Baltimore County in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, things didn’t bounce Princeton’s way.

“We had a lot of chances early in that game that we didn’t put away,” said Hoppenot. “If we had capitalized, that could have changed the way the game went.”

But for Hoppenot, capitalizing on his chances over the fall helped him get chosen as the Ivy League Player of the Year.

“I was pretty excited; I figured it was between Josh and me since we had gone undefeated in the league,” said Hoppenot, reflecting on the honor. “Josh had a great year. I was surprised and really excited to be picked.”

Things didn’t go so great as the Tigers had trouble adjusting to the loss of Walburn and his classmates during their spring training.

“We started off slow; we lost six starters and 10 seniors in all,” said Hoppenot. “Once we got into games, we started playing well and fighting for each other.”

Over the summer, Hoppenot put his fighting spirit on display in high-level club action.

“I have been playing for the Central Jersey Spartans,” said Hoppenot, referring to the club which plays in the Premier Development League (PDL), part of the United Soccer Leagues (USL). “I am definitely working on my finishing and putting away chances.”

With the Tigers going through their preseason training in preparation for an opening weekend which will see them head to Charleston, S.C. to play at the College of Charleston on September 2 and Furman two days later, Hoppenot is at full throttle.

“I feel great; I feel prepared,” said Hoppenot. “It is the last time I am going to be playing with these guys; I have played with some of them for the last two or three years. We have won nine of our last 10 Ivy games so other teams will be looking to bring us down a notch.”

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