Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 35
 
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
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READY TO BLOSSOM: Princeton University women’s soccer star Caitlin Blosser dribbles the ball in action last season. Sophomore Blosser, who has moved up to forward from midfielder this season, will look to be a scoring threat for the Tigers. Princeton opens its 2010 season by playing at Rutgers on September 3 before hosting Seton Hall on September 5.

Struggling Through Growing Pains Last Fall, PU Women’s Soccer Ready to Shine in 2010

Bill Alden

It is an oft-stated coaching maxim that the best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores.

For Princeton University women’s soccer head coach Julie Shackford, that principle is gaining more and more validity as her Tigers go through their preseason paces.

In 2009, Shackford started seven freshmen and saw her team endure an uneven campaign, posting an overall record of 7-7-3 (3-3-1 Ivy League) and scoring just 13 goals.

“We were an immature team last year,” said Shackford. “We would play really well for 30 minutes at a time but once we got scored on, we couldn’t overcome it.”

As the Tigers get ready for its 2010 season opener at 17th-ranked Rutgers on September 3, Shackford sees a new savvy around the team.

“We had a really good spring; we saw a lot more maturity,” said Shackford, who is in her 16th year guiding the Tigers with a 160-83-19 record during her tenure.

“Things were not coming at them at 100 m.p.h. We won both of our spring events. I see a rhythm and flow in our preseason camp. Things have been so much better; the kids know where they need to be.”

Shackford is depending on two of her sophomores, Jen Hoy and Caitlin Blosser, to get into a scoring rhythm. “Jen got a lot of opportunities last season that she didn’t finish; we are expecting her to finish more of those this year,” said Shackford. “We moved Blosser to forward from midfield and she is looking good.”

The Tigers have good depth up top as Shackford is planning to run a bunch of players through forward. “We have seven players for that position,” said Shackford, who plans to also use senior Lauren Whatley, juniors Barb Previ and Sara Chehrehsa together with sophomores Stephanie Iantorno and Rachel Saunders up top. “We will rotate them to have fresh legs on the field.”

In the midfield, Princeton will be featuring the busy legs of senior co-captain Kayleigh Iatarola. “She is one of the best workhorses I have ever had,” said Shackford, referring to Iatarola. “She gives her all; she is tiny but is in there fighting for every ball.”

Others in the midfield mix include senior Alex Valerio, sophomore Rachel Sheehy, and freshman Gabriella Guzman.

Sophomore Ali Nabatoff, the Ivy League Co-Rookie of the Year last fall, figures to anchor the Tiger back line. “Nabatoff is very solid; she reads things like Taylor Numann (a former All-Ivy defender for the Tigers),” added Shackford. “She is vocal; we need her to be a big talker back there.”

Joining Nabatoff in the defensive unit will be juniors Kalie Bartholomew and Kim Menafra, sophomore Diane Metcalf-Leggette, and freshman Kacie Kergides.

“We have moved Bartholomew back there; she is a natural lefty and has been playing really well,” said Shackford. “Metcalf-Leggette will be in the middle of the back with Nabatoff; they play on the same club team in Northern Virginia (the McLean Freedom).”

The goalkeeper position is in the good hands of senior Alyssa Pont, a two-time first-team All-Ivy selection who has a microscopic career goals against average of 0.64.

“Pont is a great goalie; she is a great shot stopper,” asserted Shackford. “She is really athletic and she is a gamer. We need her to start strong.”

The Tigers have strong depth at the keeper spot with sophomores Claire Pinciaro and Kristin Watson showing potential in a reserve role.

“It is good to have three goalies,” said Shackford, noting that the backups were sidelined last year.

“We didn’t know how hard to train Aly last year; we were afraid she might get hurt in practice.”

Shackford knows that Princeton faces a hard test in its opener at Rutgers this Friday evening.

“We have a big challenge with Rutgers; it is a great rivalry game and it has been a pretty even series over the years,” said Shackford, whose team will play another Big East foe, Seton Hall, in its home opener on September 5.

“We will have a game fitness issue, dealing with a team that will have already played four games and have had the chance to work some things out.”

As the season unfolds, Shackford believes her players have the chance to blossom into a special squad.

“I think we can do something, I feel good,” said Shackford. “The team has been talking a lot about not being average. I love the camaraderie around this group; they are so energized. They are fun to be around; they are lighthearted but they know when to work hard.”

And it doesn’t hurt to have a group of sophomores bringing plenty of experience into their second season.

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