Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 41
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
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TRUE GRIT: Princeton University women’s soccer star Kayleigh Iatarola chases down a ball in action last season. The gritty play of the diminutive senior midfielder and two-time captain Iatarola has helped Princeton go 7-4 overall and 3-0 in Ivy League play. The Tigers are currently in first place in the league standings with Columbia (7-2-2 overall, 2-0-1 Ivy) just behind in second. Princeton hosts Lehigh on October 13 before playing at Columbia on October 16.

With Iatarola Providing Leadership, Gritty Play, PU Women’s Soccer Sitting Atop Ivy Standings

Bill Alden

She is pint-sized and has a grand total of two assists with no goals in her 59 appearances for the Princeton University women’s soccer team over the last four years.

But there can be no question that senior midfielder and tri-captain Kayleigh Iatarola stands as a giant presence on the field for the Tigers.

Although she is a head shorter than many of her foes, Iatarola is the engine of the Princeton midfield, hounding foes, winning balls in the air, and scrapping for possession.

Princeton head coach Julie Shackford will tell you that the diminutive Iatarola has squeezed every ounce out of her slight frame during her college career.

“She has the biggest heart of all, she has gotten more out of herself as a D-1 athlete than anyone I have seen,” said Shackford of her feisty midfielder. “You look at her and you think how could that kid be a star but she is so effective at what she does. She is so stubborn.”

Last Saturday evening, Iatarola wore her heart on her sleeve as the Tigers fought hard to pull out a 1-0 win over Brown.

Her stat line was empty but the Iatarola’s fiery play made a difference in a testy contest that saw the teams pile up more fouls (21) than shots (16). Princeton scored with 3:44 left in the first half and made that hold up, repelling a Brown team that fought desperately to find the back of the net.

Afterward, Iatarola had no problem with winning ugly as the Tigers moved to 7-4 overall and 3-0 in Ivy League play, taking over first place in the league standings with Columbia (7-2-2 overall, 2-0-1 Ivy) just behind in second.

“Our motto is grit and I think that is what we did today,” said Iatarola afterward with her head band askew from the midfield fray.

“Like our coach said, I don’t think we have ever had a pretty one against Brown. They are always sticklers. Sometimes they sit in and sometimes they don’t. It was so back and forth but you have got to get that goal especially against Brown. To get it right before the half is crucial; I think that was really good timing. Unfortunately things always get messy in the last 15 minutes; it gets hectic no matter what you do.”

For Iatarola, the team’s work rate means more than style points. “I think just playing hard and playing all the way through to the end is what we have got to do,” said Iatarola. “It is not pretty, but we are 3-0 so we are happy with that.”

The win also represented growth for a team that had trouble winning the close ones last fall when it went 3-3-1 in Ivy play on the way to a 7-7-3 record.

“I think it is maturity,” said Iatarola, a native of Dundee, Ill. “I think with that sophomore class being 11 players and coming up now with one more year under their belt, that is huge.”

In Iatarola’s view, the team has matured collectively. “The seniors are leading and each class is playing their role,” added Iatarola. “Everybody knows their role and everyone is doing that.”

Serving in her second year as team captain, Iatarola knows she has to take a major leadership role for the Tigers.

“Last year, I was learning the ropes as a captain,” said Iatarola. “This year, I can execute. It feels good being the leader; I know I have to be showing it by my actions. I can talk all about it but on the field I have to show and lead.”

Shackford, for her part, liked the leadership that Iatarola showed in the win over Brown.

“She is the epitome of grit, for sure,” asserted Shackford. “She is such a worker and always gives us leadership.”

The Tigers got some good work against the Bears from junior defender Kalie Bartholomew, who has moved into the starting lineup due to an injury to Diane Metcalf-Leggette and scored the lone goal of the contest on a header.

“Kalie did great; she had some struggles early on in the season,” said Shackford, who also got a superb effort from sophomore goalie Kristin Watson as she made five saves in earning the shutout.

“With Diane out, she knows that she has to step up. She is coming in to watch tape and has done the extra things to try to eliminate some of the mistakes she was making.”

Princeton pushed extra hard in the second half as it tried to extend its 1-0 lead and nearly tallied as a Lauren Whaley shot rattled the crossbar some 18 minutes into the period.

“It is too bad we didn’t get that second one; that was a shame because it was a beautiful play,” said Shackford, whose team hosts Lehigh on October 13 before playing at Columbia on October 16.

“That’s soccer and gritting it out in the league. They are all going to be tough battles like that. I think our backs and center midfielders fought like crazy tonight. They did a good job with all the dirty work.

Iatarola, for her part, is more than happy to do the dirty work. “I do pride myself on my defense,” said Iatarola. “It is setting the tone so everyone around can feel the momentum and feel confident going forward.”

And with Iatarola serving as the little engine that could in the Princeton midfield, the Tigers should have plenty of momentum going into the season’s stretch drive.

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