Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 47
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
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SERIOUS CHALLENGE: Princeton University field hockey head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn surveys the action in a game this fall. Holmes-Winn had to deal with a series of key injuries down the stretch but still guided the Tigers to the Ivy League title and the NCAA quarterfinals where they fell to Virginia to finish with a 14-5 record.

Princeton Field Hockey Hampered by Injuries; but Showed Resilience in Making NCAA Run

Bill Alden

Coming into the fall, the Princeton University team appeared to have the pieces in place to contend for the national championship.

After going to the NCAA Final Four in 2009, the Tigers returned four All-Americans in junior Katie Reinprecht, junior Kathleen Sharkey, sophomore Julia Reinprecht, and sophomore Michelle Cesan.

In early going this fall, Princeton rose to No. 3 in the national rankings as it started 8-0, knocking off top-ranked Maryland along the way.

But in mid-October, things started to go awry for the Tigers, starting with two-time Ivy League Player of the Year and offensive catalyst Katie Reinprecht suffering a broken fibula.

“So much of our offense goes through Katie,” said Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn, whose club was hit with an injury bug as Cesan, Alyssa Pyros, and Christine Krause were hobbled at various points down the stretch. “We had to make massive adjustments; we had to restructure our style of play.”

Showing its talent and resilience, Princeton didn’t let its injury woes keep it from going undefeated in Ivy League play as it won its 15th league title in the last 16 years.

The Tigers went on to beat Wake Forest 3-1 in the first round of the NCAA tournament to advance to the quarterfinals for the third season in a row.

In the end, however, Princeton wasn’t deep enough to overcome Virginia as it fell 4-1 to the Cavaliers in the quarters of the tourney which was won by Maryland last Sunday.

While Holmes-Winn was disappointed with the outcome, she felt that her players gave their all.

“When I looked in their eyes after the game, I could tell that they had no regrets,” said Holmes-Winn, whose club ended the season with a record of 14-5.

“They gave everything to the process and did their best. Sometimes it will be enough and sometimes it won’t. They kept persevering.”

Princeton gave one of its best efforts in the opening round win over perennial power Wake Forest as it overcame an early 1-0 deficit.

“We were dictating the tempo, I was confident that we would get a lot of chances,” said Holmes-Winn, reflecting on her team’s rally.

“The second half was really good; we played professionally. We were methodical and we found a way to finish. It was good to get that final goal; 2-1 was a little tight.”

That final goal was inspirational as well as pivotal since it came from Katie Reinprecht as she saw her first action since breaking her leg.

“She couldn’t really run but Katie at 50 percent is better than a lot of people,” said Holmes-Winn, who also got goals from Sharkey and Julia Reinprecht in the victory.

“It lifted everyone’s spirits to have her back. To have her actually score was amazing. I think that had some of us crying.”

In the season-ending 4-2 loss to Virginia, the Tigers showed plenty of spirit.

“We played a really good first half,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team jumped out to an early 1-0 lead on a goal by Sharkey.

“We didn’t have the depth to stay with them in the second half. We had three different presses; they had three good playmakers and we did a good job of denying them the ball. We had to move Kat [Sharkey] to the midfield and that hurt us up front.”

While the Tigers may have lacked depth down the stretch, they displayed a depth of character as they battled adversity.

“They stuck together; they are just good people,” asserted Holmes-Winn. “They take care of other people’s spirits; they have a level of respect for each other. They are winners; they are amazing to be around.”

The team’s senior group of Jen King, Alexandra Douwes, Hollis Barber, and Katherine Cape has earned the respect of their teammates.

“They are extraordinarily high academic achievers,” added Holmes-Winn.

“Jen King was a Rhodes Scholar candidate; Alex Douwes has the highest GPA on the team. They have a good perspective on things. They bring an evenness to the team; we will miss them.”

Princeton could suffer some additional losses next year as several of its stars may take a year off to compete with the U.S. national program.

“We could lose three or four players to the U.S. team as it prepares for the Olympics,” said Holmes-Winn. “Kat, Katie, Julia, and Michelle are all in the mix.”

After having dealt with some bad luck his fall, the Tigers are steeled for such a challenge. “If that happens, we are totally up for it,” maintained Holmes-Winn. “We have a great group returning and some really good freshmen coming in. It will be good to be the underdog.”

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