Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 35
 
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
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AHEAD OF THE PACK: Kathleen Sharkey races after the ball in a game last fall. Sharkey, the Ivy League Rookie of the Year in 2008, will look to build on her strong freshman campaign as seventh-ranked Princeton opens its season this weekend. The Tigers, who went 17-3 last year in reaching the NCAA quarterfinals and winning its 14th Ivy title in the last 15 years, play No. 18 Ohio State on September 5 and third-ranked Syracuse a day later with both games taking place at Syracuse.

No. 7 PU Field Hockey Aiming for the Top; Beginning Season With Litmus Test Games

Bill Alden

With a bounce here or a break there, the Princeton University field hockey team could’ve landed a spot in last year’s NCAA semifinals.

Instead, the Tigers ended the season by falling 3-2 in overtime at No. 3 Syracuse in the national quarters, nearly finding the back of the cage in the first moments of the extra session before succumbing to the Orange.

Although Princeton has lost nine seniors from a squad that posted a sparkling 17-3 record and ended up ranked No. 5 in the country, the Tiger players believe a Final Four and more are within their grasp as they look forward to the 2009 season.

“They want to do big things; they talk a lot about a national championship,” said Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn, whose team is ranked seventh nationally and gets into action when it plays No. 18 Ohio State on September 5 and third-ranked Syracuse a day later with both games taking place at Syracuse.

“I think they are capable of that. There is a lot of work that has to be done and a lot of things that have to happen. They are willing to do the work; they don’t just talk about it.”

The team’s collective work ethic was inspired, in part, by the influence of last year’s sterling senior group.

“The legacy the seniors left behind is professionalism and working hard everyday,” asserted Holmes-Winn, who has posted an overall record of 87-43 and won five Ivy League titles in her six years guiding the Tigers.

“Being so close lets us know that we are right there but they are not satisfied. There is absolutely no complacency; they are striving to be their best everyday.”

As the Tigers look to reach the summit of college field hockey, they boast a one-two punch in sophomores Katie Reinprecht and Kathleen Sharkey that ranks among the best in the country.

Reinprecht, a member of the U.S. national team, was the Ivy League Player of the year last fall when she notched 15 goals and 13 assists for 43 points. Sharkey, who was recently named to the U.S. U-21 team, was the Ivy League Rookie of the year in 2008 after tallying 15 goals and five assists.

“They really understand the game,” said Holmes-Winn of her two sophomore standouts.

“They solve problems in a similar way; they understand where to be on the field and maximize their position. We need to have them playing near each other.”

Princeton will also benefit by having Katie’s younger sister, incoming freshman Julia, playing on the team this year.

“Julia had a scorcher of a summer,” asserted Holmes-Winn. “She played in the Junior World Cup (along with older sister Katie). It is neat as a coach to see how she is ahead of the play; she has such a skill set. Julia can play on any line. She plays center striker for the High Performance club team and she was playing backline on the Junior World Cup team. She played midfield in high school.”

The Tigers should have some additional offensive firepower in senior Tina Bortz and freshman Michelle Cesan.

“Bortz will be playing on the line; she has become a really good defensive player,” said Holmes-Winn of Bortz who scored five goals last season and had 12 goals as a sophomore.

“I am looking to her for leadership. She is a ruthless finisher; you love to see that as a coach. I have been coaching Michelle for a long time; she is a high end player. She can shoot the ball from both sides with equal effectiveness.”

In the midfield, the Holmes-Winn has a lot of options, including seniors Katherine Cape, Lauren Capps, and Kaitlin Donovan, sophomores Allison Behringer and Erin Jennings together with freshmen Charlotte Krause and Carrie Diamond.

“We have some seniors with a good understanding of the system and lots of good freshmen,” said Holmes-Winn in assessing her midfield.

On defense, Princeton will be looking to senior Kaitlyn Perrelle to run the system.

“Perrelle will be the anchor in the back of the field,” said Holmes-Winn of Perrelle, an honorable-mention All-Ivy performer last fall who was recently named to the U.S. U-21 team.

“She has an awesome voice out there; we will rely on her. She is a special player.”

Others in the mix on defense include junior Alex Douwes, sophomore Alyssa Pyros, and freshman Amy Donovan.

The team’s last line of defense is in good hands with junior goalie Jennifer King, who came on strong down the homestretch last fall and ended up posting a 0.80 goals against average and a .791 save percentage.

“King had a terrific second half of the season; she pulled herself up by her bootstraps,” added Holmes-Winn, who will also use junior Cynthia Wray at goalie.

“She decided she was going to go for it; she made really good decisions. She made high level saves and did the basics as well. A lot of goaltending is mentality, showing the right mindset and commanding the respect of the defenders.”

As the Tigers get ready to hit the field, Holmes-Winn likes the mindset being exuded by her players.

“There is always a mentality to dominate opponents; there is an urgency in training,” asserted Holmes-Winn. “There is an electricity I feel in our group that propels it.”

While the Tigers may get a jolt this weekend when they battle Top 20 foes, Holmes-Winn believes the experience will help her team in the long run.

“Those teams will really test us; they have some great players and that gives our kids a pretty true sense of the talent out there,” said Holmes-Winn.

“It helps frame practices for the rest of September; those teams will show us what we need to improve on. I want to know realistically where we are at. If we beat someone 5-0; that doesn’t show you where you are at.”

If the Tigers can make some breaks with their hard work and talent, they could end up at a special place this fall.

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