Behncke Following Brothers' Footsteps As Tiger Women's Soccer Tops Harvard
By Bill Alden
Starting in the mid-1990s, the Williamsburg, Va. native made the trek north many a time to watch her older brothers, Griff and then Matt, star for the Tigers.
The Behncke brothers were both All-Ivy League performers with Matt having earned the additional recognition of winning the Roper Prize in 2002 as the top senior male athlete at Princeton.
Last Saturday, the younger sister produced a dramatic effort to add a particularly rich chapter to the Behncke soccer lore at Princeton. With the Tigers trailing visiting Harvard 1-0 late in the second half, Behncke drilled a goal into the lower corner of the net with 41 seconds left to force overtime.
The junior forward then came up big again in the waning moments of the second overtime period as she deftly flicked the ball to Esmeralda Negron, who blasted home the game winner.
As Behncke revelled in the celebration on Lourie-Love Field which started with the players jumping all over each other in front of the Harvard goal, she acknowledged that her brothers' exploits have been an inspiration.
"It's certainly driven me to do as well as I can," said Behncke in reflecting on following in her brothers' considerable footsteps.
"I've been coming to Princeton games since I was 12 years old watching them play. I couldn't wait to step on the field in a Princeton jersey."
For Behncke, the win over Harvard, which had gone 7-1-1 in its last nine meetings with the Tigers before Saturday, made for one of the sweetest days she has had on the field for Princeton.
"We've always had trouble with Harvard, especially at home," said Behncke, who was the Ivy League Rookie of the Year as a freshman and then earned first-team All-Ivy honors last season.
"We knew we could win this game, that was the most important part. We had the confidence that we were going to get that goal."
Behncke exuded confidence as she coolly scored the game-tying goal. "I told Maura [Gallagher] to leave the ball and the Harvard player totally went with her," recalled Behncke, who now has six goals and four assists on the season. "The left side was left open so I just hit the corner."
With the lift from that dramatic goal, Behncke and her teammates were confident they could finish the deal in overtime. "Getting a goal with 41 seconds left takes the wind out of their sails," asserted Behncke. "We were psyched after that. We had so much energy. The crowd was great tonight too. You could feel the energy from that, it really helped."
Princeton head coach Julie Shackford was happy with her team's energy level from the start. "I think we pressed hard all game long," said Shackford, whose club outshot Harvard 25-10 on the evening in improving to 12-1 overall and 5-0 in Ivy play. "I think we had a lot of great opportunities. We dominated but obviously their keeper did really well."
As the game headed into the end of regulation, Shackford grew increasingly concerned that her team's efforts were going to go unrewarded.
"I wasn't worried until it got to five minutes to go," said Shackford, who came into the game with a 0-4 record against Harvard in home contests. "I turned to [assistant coach] Ron [Celestin] and I said 'the curse, the curse.' I thought it wasn't going to happen for us."
Overcoming the Harvard hex should be a boon for the ninth-ranked Tigers. "It's great, I'm so pleased for the team," said Shackford, whose club hosts Syracuse on October 27 before playing at Cornell on October 29. "I think it gives us momentum for the last third of the season. We have two left in the league, it's going to be exciting."
Shackford is excited to have somebody like Behncke playing up front for her. "Emily is like Esmeralda, you can count on them to make things happen," said Shackford, whose team will clinch the Ivy crown outright if it beats Cornell.
With the Tigers having made the NCAA tournament the last five seasons, Behncke believes the team is primed to make some special things happen this fall.
"We've got a great team this year," said Behncke. "A big part of that is that we have the confidence that we can do well. We've got four more regular season games and we're certainly not looking past any of those. Our whole team has a great attitude out there."
Based on the winning attitude Behncke has demonstrated throughout her Princeton career, she is likely to produce many more glorious moments for the Tigers.