Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 38
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
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FRESH FACE: Princeton University field hockey freshman goalie Christina Maida takes a break in a game earlier this season. Last Sunday, Maida passed a major test in her college career as she made six saves to help No. 4 Princeton edge ninth-ranked Syracuse 1-0. The Tigers, now 5-0, play at Yale on September 25 before hosting a showdown against No. 2 Maryland on September 28.

No. 4 PU Field Hockey Passes Major Test; Edging 9th-Ranked Syracuse in 1-0 Thriller

Bill Alden

Alex Douwes and her teammates on the Princeton University field hockey team were longing for a challenge as they hosted Syracuse last Sunday.

After starting 4-0, outscoring its foes 26-3 in the process, No. 4 Princeton knew it would get a run for its money from ninth-ranked Syracuse.

“I think we needed a test like this,” asserted senior back and tri-captain Douwes. “We have played four opponents and they were all good games but nothing challenging enough to take us to the next level.”

Over the last two years, the teams had pushed each other to the limit as they clashed in the NCAA quarterfinals each season. Syracuse pulled out a 3-2 overtime win in the 2008 quarters while the Tigers responded last fall by riding a 5-0 second half surge to post a 7-3 victory and punch a ticket to the Final Four.

The familiarity between the teams produced a classic defensive battle at Class of 1952 Stadium in last Sunday’s renewal of their rivalry. Syracuse outshot Princeton 7-6 in the first half as the teams headed into intermission locked in a scoreless tie.

In the second half, the tension rose as each team desperately tried to break through. With 1:10 left in regulation, Princeton sophomore star Michelle Cesan produced a stroke of genius, blasting the ball into the back of the cage to break the deadlock.

The Princeton defense held the fort in the waning seconds as the Tigers came through with a hard-earned 1-0 triumph.

Afterward, Douwes acknowledged that the Orange had Princeton under fire. “They definitely put pressure on us at times but I think it all comes down to our organization,” said Douwes, a native of Bussum, Netherlands.

“I think every time we were ready for them; there was nothing unexpected. It was just being in the right position at the right time and getting down and dirty with them.”

Douwes has taken it upon herself to speak up to help keep the Princeton defenders in the right position.

“I think it is important to have someone back there who really keeps communicating,” said Douwes.

“It’s tough at times, especially when your play breaks down to keep talking but for me it really helps to keep the communication up. When things are getting a little out of control, that helps me get back into my position.”

The Tiger defense got some big help Sunday from precocious freshman goalie Christina Maida, who had a coming out party with six saves, including a point blank stop off her stick down the stretch.

“As much as this was our first challenge at the next level, this was huge for her,” said Douwes.

“She really dominated that goal; she was in there talking. Her timing was perfect and that last save was crucial. To still be able to perform like that under pressure is very impressive and crucial for a goalie.”

For Douwes, coming from the Netherlands to join the Princeton program was a challenge.

“My mother went to Boston College so the idea of going to college in America had always been in there somewhere,” recalled Douwes.

“It was tough because I went to a Dutch school and no one knew what the SATs were. I had to make my own way and forge my own path. I called Kristin [PU head coach Kristin Holmes-Winn] out of the blue and I said how would it work if I wanted to play. I had no idea of what to expect.”

In Holmes-Winn’s view, Douwes has surpassed expectations. “Alex organizes everything,” said Holmes-Winn. “She is a little chess master in getting all the pieces in the right spot and making sure that we have structure defensively. She was really outstanding today.”

The Tigers had to be outstanding in order to edge a disciplined and skilled Syracuse club.

“I think Syracuse has one of the best zones in the country,” asserted Holmes-Winn, reflecting on the game which saw each team generate 13 shots.

“Individually as defenders, they are just exceptional. It was really good for us to have to fight through that pressure. They had periods of time where they were able to challenge our defense. It was great to see us be able to come up with the tackles and the interceptions.”

It took a superb individual effort by Cesan for Princeton to finally solve the Syracuse defense. “In the first half, she kind of struggled with her touch,” said Holmes-Winn, referring to her sophomore star. “In the second half, she got some good ball and that shot was great. It is hard to operate in such a small area against Syracuse which has really good tacklers.”

It was great for Princeton to overcome Syracuse. “To get the win is obviously huge and it is something we can build off” said Holmes-Winn, whose team plays at Yale on September 25 before hosting a showdown against No. 2 Maryland on September 28.

“They were able to expose us in different areas which is so good for us because we are able go back and look at that and figure out ways to tighten things up.”

Douwes, for her part, is glad that she has been able to figure things out after a challenging start to her college career.

“There was definitely some adjustment,” said Douwes, reflecting on her freshman year.

“Athletically it was a completely different world; it was much more intense. You have to juggle a lot with academics and being a foreigner. I would say the first year was kind of figuring things out and then I started building on that. They have helped me be a better player than I ever thought I could be.”

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