(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)
PAIGE ONE STORY: Princeton University sophomore midfielder Paige Schmidt, middle, barrels through two Yale defenders in action earlier this season. Last Friday, Schmidt scored two first half goals to help lead Princeton to a critical 2-1 win over visiting Cornell. The victory gave the Tigers an unblemished 4-0 mark in Ivy play, putting them alone in first place as the only team undefeated in league play.
Tiger Field Hockey Holds Off Cornell, Makes Statement in Taking Ivy Lead
By Bill Alden
Maren Ford's left thigh was heavily taped but that wasn't about to slow her down as she took the field for the Princeton University field hockey team last Friday night in its critical clash with visiting Cornell.
With the chill air of fall settling over Class of 1952 Stadium, the action on the field was hot as both teams brought 3-0 Ivy League marks into the contest.
Princeton had the additional incentive of looking to atone for a shaky league campaign last year that saw the Tigers finish third after winning 10 straight Ivy crowns.
"We know that our conference games are huge," said Ford, a two-time All-Ivy performer who has been dealing with a groin injury.
"We are trying to bring back the tradition that we lost last year. We owe it to the people who came before us to get the streak going again. We definitely have personal motivation to go out and play hard."
The Tigers made an advance payment on repaying that debt as they took a 2-0 lead over the Big Red on two first-half goals by Paige Schmidt and then held on for a 2-1 win.
Holding an an ice pack to her leg afterward, Ford thought the Tigers held up their end of the bargain. "That was a huge statement to make," asserted Ford, a senior defender who hails from Lewes, Del. "We are now the only undefeated team in the league so that really does say something. We're on the rise."
A key factor in Princeton's rise has been the leadership Ford has provided to a team that has stared five freshmen at times.
"We're guiding them offensively, defensively and in general," asserted Ford. "We are supporting them. This is their first college experience and we want to be sure that they have their confidence up."
Ford has formed a strong partnership with one of those freshmen, Sarah Reinprecht. "Sarah and I rotate at the bottom of the point," added Ford. "The goalkeeper and myself are the most verbal out there. We see the whole field. The people in front of us are depending on us to tell them where to go. I have also been given the freedom to step up and play on the attack."
Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn is happy with how Ford has stepped up in her final Princeton campaign. "Maren is a fabulous leader for us," said Holmes-Winn, whose club fell to 5-5 with a 3-2 loss to No. 15 Villanova last Sunday in a non-league contest. "I couldn't ask for anything more from Maren. She brings it every single day at practice. She has the team together. She and Sarah played a remarkable game tonight."
Holmes-Winn was less than thrilled by the Tigers' failure to put Cornell away on a night which saw Princeton outshoot the Big Red 12-5 and hold a 16-3 edge in penalty corners.
"We didn't do the little things," asserted Holmes-Winn after looking at the game statistics. "The small details can make the difference between winning big 6-1 or winning just 2-1. We had 16 penalty corners and got one goal of that. It's not good enough. I give a lot of credit to Cornell. They really fought and made it close."
In Holmes-Winn's view, her club has what it takes to develop a killer instinct. "The team has a ton of character; they work their butts off," said Holmes-Winn, whose club hosts Hofstra on October 7 before playing at Maryland on October 11.
"They've got to grow quickly. We need to work on attacking inside the 25. We need to make the diving plays; we don't really go for it. I'd like to change that mentality of our team."
With Princeton having won four of its last six games after a 1-3 start, Ford believes the team is developing a winning mentality.
"I think our attitude has changed," asserted Ford. "We lost those games early and we saw what we have to do to change it. We're determined to put the ball in the cage, that's what it comes down to. Our theme is 'whatever it takes' and that's how we look at things."