Vol. LXII, No. 41
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)
STANDING TALL: Princeton University womens soccer goalie Aly Pont, middle, knocks away the ball in a game earlier this season. Sophomore Pont has been a major spark for the Tigers, who beat Dartmouth 1-0 last Saturday to move to 6-1-1 overall and 2-0 in Ivy League play. Pont has a goals against average of 0.36 goals so far this season and has already posted five shutouts.
Aly Pont made the most of her role as understudy last fall during her freshman season on the Princeton University womens soccer team.
Soaking in all she could from playing behind star senior goalie Maren Dale, Pont learned the ropes of playing keeper at the college level.
I really enjoyed working with Maren, said Pont. She really taught me a lot; especially about organizing and being strong in the back. She was such a good leader. I really try to emulate her in a lot of ways; she left huge shoes to fill.
So far this season, Pont has filled Dales shoes rather nicely. Last Saturday, Pont made five saves to help Princeton top visiting Dartmouth 1-0 and improve to 6-1-1 overall and 2-0 in Ivy League play.
Through eight games, Pont has a microscopic 0.36 goals against average (GAA) and has posted five shutouts, comparing favorably to her mentor Dale, who had a 1.33 GAA in her senior season.
Although Pont has been the starter since day one this season, she isnt taking anything for granted.
I have tried to just work hard, asserted Pont, after earning a shutout in Princetons 1-0 win over Fairfield on September 30 which saw Tiger senior Sarah Peteraf notch the games only goal.
There are two other keepers on the team who are close to me in age (sophomore Jillian Hewitt and freshman Kristin Watson) so it wasnt an open spot. They push me and we push each other. I really try to take a leadership role even though I am a sophomore.
Pont has pushed herself to develop tunnel vision during games. Being mentally prepared the entire time and knowing that there is a lot of pressure on you, explained Pont, when asked the biggest challenges of moving up to the starters role.
It is a matter of using that pressure to motivate you and keep you in the game and not really feel nervous.
Having All-Ivy senior defender Taylor Numann anchoring the Tiger back line has helped Pont keep her head in the game.
Taylor has been a really great asset to us back there; she has been really great, asserted Pont, a native of Sterling, Va. who helped Bishop OConnell to three state championships.
She has just been really strong, very good at organizing, really leading us back there. It is great to have her.
In Ponts view, the defense has developed a great sense of common purpose.
We have this mentality that every ball that comes in is ours, added Pont. We really work as a unit very well. Even if one player slips up, the other one is always there covering. I try to be back there as much as I can.
While Princeton head coach Julie Shackford thinks its too early to declare her team as an Ivy title favorite, she is heartened by her teams work ethic.
Its a game by game thing, said Shackford. The thing about this team is that they are workers.
Shackford acknowledges that she is getting some good work on the defensive end of the field.
They are doing well, said Shackford, whose team now has a scoreless streak of more than 400 minutes, having not given up a goal since a 1-1 tie at St. Johns on September 21. I have no complaints really.
Princetons last line of defense, Pont, has impressed Shackford with her cool-headed play.
Aly is playing really well; she is playing with a lot of confidence, added Shackford. She came up big in the last five minutes; she has done that the last three games.
Shackford liked the way her team came up big against Fairfield, not showing any letdown after a dramatic 1-0 win against Yale three days earlier.
I was impressed; I was nervous after the Yale game that it would just be really tough to come out and play a team that has done so well, said Shackford, whose hosts Brown on October 11.
I thought we stood our ground, we werent that sharp in the first 20 minutes but from that point on, I thought we played really well. I think that was the best soccer that we played all season.
Pont, for her part, believes the Yale game was a major confidence builder for the Tigers.
It was our first Ivy game so it set us out on a really good path, said Pont. We got an early goal and we kept it. We were just so solid; we came out so hard. It carried over into this game as well.
The subsequent win over Dartmouth exemplified how hard Princeton has been to beat on its new home, Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium. The Tigers are now 4-0 on their home pitch, outscoring foes 5-1 in those games.
I think we will have a little bit of an edge at home, said Pont. We intentionally go out every game, saying this is our field and we want to keep it clean and we have. It is just like an extra motivation when we need that extra bit to go to goal or the extra bit to save it from going in. Its something we guard.
And with Pont on guard in the net, it looks like Princeton may clean up this fall.
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