Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 46
 
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
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SHARK ATTACK: Princeton University field hockey star Kathleen Sharkey controls the ball in recent action. Last Sunday, sophomore star Sharkey scored four goals to help No. 4 Princeton top No. 8 Syracuse 7-3 in the NCAA quarterfinals. Princeton, now 16-2, will face No. 1 and undefeated Maryland (22-0) in the NCAA semis on November 20 in Winston-Salem, N.C. with the winner facing the victor of the Maryland-Virginia clash in the national championship game on November 22.

Sharkey and Donovan Lead the Charge as PU Field Hockey Rolls Into Final 4

Bill Alden

Kathleen Sharkey and her teammates on the Princeton University field hockey team had reason to be concerned as they headed into the dressing room last Sunday at halftime of their NCAA quarterfinal clash with visiting Syracuse.

The fourth-ranked Tigers trailed No. 8 Syracuse 3-2 at intermission, an ominous score considering that was the final last fall when the Orange beat the Tigers in the NCAA quarters.

Despite the deficit, Sharkey was confident that Princeton could ultimately prevail.

“We knew that we were playing really well in the first half and with a few adjustments, we definitely could come out and get those goals to win the game,” said sophomore striker Sharkey.

The high-scoring Sharkey, who came into the game with a team-high 17 goals, took matters into her own hands. She banged in two goals in a 2:27 stretch early in the second half to help the Tigers forge ahead 4-3.

Sharkey added another tally at 20:59 to give Princeton a 5-3 lead and the game turned into a rout as the Tigers cruised to a 7-3 victory and earned their first trip to the Final Four since 2001.

Fourth-seeded Princeton, now 16-2, will face No. 1 and undefeated Maryland (22-0) in the NCAA semis on November 20 in Winston-Salem, N.C. with the winner facing the victor of the Maryland-Virginia clash in the national championship game on November 22.

For Sharkey, who ended up with four goals in the win over Syracuse, her outburst was the product of aggressive play.

“It was definitely really exciting to score; I was just able to take advantage of all my opportunities,” said Sharkey, a native of Kingston, Pa. and a two-time first-team All-Ivy League selection.

“We knew once we got that goal to go ahead, we weren’t going to slow down. We were going to bring up the intensity even more because we knew that with a team like Syracuse that is really great on their offensive corners, a one-goal lead wasn’t enough. We knew that we wanted to keep the pressure on.”

In Sharkey’s view, a key to the win was Princeton’s increased defensive pressure in the second half.

“We adjusted our press to try to keep it in their defensive 25,” explained Sharkey.

“We thought if we could frustrate them on our defensive press, we were going to get opportunities and we would be able to capitalize on them.”

Senior Kaitlin Donovan, who tallied two goals in the win over Syracuse, was thrilled to get the opportunity to finally make it to the Final Four.

“This has been our goal for all four years and it is great for me to be able to do it my senior year,” said Donovan, who is one of four seniors on the team along with Kaitlyn Perrelle, Lauren Capps, and Christina Bortz.

“This team has been so special and so awesome. I think we are always ready and we have worked all season for it and it is just so great that everything came together.”

As the fall has unfolded, Donovan and her teammates have utilized a daily focus as they have chased their ultimate goal of a national title.

“This team just brings so much energy and just loves to come out and play,” maintained Donovan.

“Before every game, it is never nervous. It is just about us and the team, it doesn’t matter who we are playing. We just want to go out there and play together. We are not afraid to set really high goals. We don’t take anything for granted but we are shooting for a national championship.”

Even if the Tigers fall short of that goal, last Sunday will leave an indelible memory for Donovan, who came into the game with a total of four goals on the season.

“I have just enjoyed playing for these coaches and playing with this team for four years,” said Donovan, a native of Kennett Square, Pa. who has also played for the Tiger women’s lacrosse team.

“I am so happy to be able to end my career at Class of 1952 Stadium like this and with this team. It is just so special.”

Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn was more than happy to see Donovan come up big in her home finale.

“I love it,” said Holmes-Winn with a broad grin. “Donny is just clutch. She has that air about her; give me that ball and I’ll find a way to finish. She’s just a very confident player and believes in herself; that’s what came through and gave her that confidence to finish today.”

Having Sharkey at striker gives Princeton a big dose of confidence. “Her will is unbelievable,” said Holmes-Winn of Sharkey.

“We tease her ‘Sharkey you have NCAA fever.’ She has just been so excited for weeks now; she is a winner.”

In Holmes-Winn’s view, Sharkey’s intensity exemplifies the team’s collective mindset.

“All these girls have this will to be excellent that really pervades everything they do,” maintained Holmes-Winn, who is in her seventh season guiding the Tiger program.

“It is not just what they do on the field, it’s in the classroom. They have that humility that underpins their disciplined lifestyle. It’s amazing to be around.”

Princeton is happy to be around to get another crack at Maryland after nearly toppling the Terps in a 3-2 overtime loss in early October.

“Maryland is a really classy team; they play very sophisticated hockey,” said Holmes-Winn.

“We will have a strong look at what we did against them the first time and what they did against us. We learned a lot from that match. We have been able to tighten some things up from that time. I am sure Maryland is better too. We will prepare as we always have been. I trust this team’s mentality; I know they will bring it.”

Sharkey, for her part, is ready to bring it in the rematch with the Terps. “We are definitely looking forward to playing them; we came so close to beating them in the regular season,” said Sharkey.

“It is definitely great to get a chance to play them again. Having played them earlier in the season, gives us confidence going into the game. We are going to work hard in practice this week and definitely bring the same intensity we brought today.”

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