Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 47
 
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
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SEMI TOUGH: Princeton University sophomore field hockey standout Katie Reinprecht passes the ball in recent action. Two-time Ivy League Player of the Year and first-team All-American Reinprecht scored two goals last Friday in a losing cause as Princeton fell 7-5 to Maryland in the national semis. The Tigers finished the season with a 16-3 record.

Princeton Field Hockey Makes Dramatic Rally but Runs Out of Gas in NCAA Semis Defeat

Bill Alden

With her Princeton University field hockey trailing undefeated and top-ranked Maryland 3-1 at halftime of the national semifinals last Friday, Tiger head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn had a simple message for her players.

“I told them that you have to be brave in the offensive third and defensive third and just go for it,” said Holmes-Winn.

After spotting Maryland another tally in the first 1:24 of the second half in the game played at Kentner Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C., the Tigers roared back, scoring three unanswered goals with Kaitlin Donovan getting one and Katie Reinprecht notching a pair.

But fourth-ranked Princeton ran out of gas after knotting the game at 4-4, yielding three straight goals on the way to a 7-5 loss to the Terps, who ended up falling 3-2 to North Carolina in the NCAA title game.

In reflecting on the loss, Holmes-Winn was proud of the response she got to her halftime entreaty.

“They didn’t quit for one second of that game,” said Holmes-Winn, who also got goals from Michelle Cesan and Kathleen Sharkey in the defeat as her team finished the fall with a 16-3 record.

“To be able to come back from a three-goal deficit shows heart, character and resilience. They truly believed they could win that game.”

The Tigers started the day looking very much like a team that was ready to win, opening the scoring with a goal by freshman star Cesan 7:29 into the contest.

“They were focused, ready to go,” said Holmes-Winn of her team which was making the program’s first Final Four appearance since 2001. “They wanted to get on the board first.”

The battle-tested Terps, though, weren’t rattled by the early deficit. “Maryland is a very experienced tournament team and that showed in the first half,” said Holmes-Winn.

“Once we got on the board, we lost our structure and got spread out a little bit. When you are playing a team like Maryland, they will pick you apart and that is what happened in the first half.”

In the second half, the Tigers tweaked their structure to get back into the game.

“We adjusted our press slightly and that made a difference,” explained Holmes-Winn. “We adjusted our attacking pattern, putting Katie to the left to cause an overload.”

The energy expended in coming back, though, left the Tigers weary down the stretch.

“We had two good chances for fifth goal when it was 4-4 and the game may have been different if one of those had gone in,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team’s rally tied for the largest deficit overcome in an NCAA Tournament game. “In the last 10 minutes, we lost our legs a little bit.”

In the wake of the setback, the Tigers had lost none of their spirit. “They said they wished they could start spring season tomorrow,” said Holmes-Winn.

“They are so energized and they really enjoyed being with each other. The sadness wasn’t from the loss, it’s just that none of us wanted it to end. We wanted to be at practice the next day.”

Holmes-Winn is sad to say goodbye to her group of seniors which included Kaitlyn Perrelle, Christina Bortz, Lauren Capps, and Donovan. “They are incredible leaders and incredible young women,” asserted Holmes-Winn.

“They bring exuberance and joy. They are funny and smart. Each one of them brings something different. Each one of them had an important role and embraced that role.”

With a core of superb returning players, featuring a quartet of All-Americans in Cesan, Sharkey, and the Reinprecht sisters, Katie and Julia, Holmes-Winn is embracing the program’s future.

“I think what enabled us to be successful is a strong foundation; there is a great culture around the team,” said Holmes-Winn, who has an 86-42 record in her seven years guiding the Tigers.

“They love playing the game. They have a respect for the game and the competition that comes through in their hockey. It is so magical for me personally. They are so fun to be around; they are just good people.”

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