While Alison Nabatoff has been a starter since her freshman season with the Princeton University women’s soccer team in 2009, the star defender hadn’t scored a point in her first 50 appearances for the Tigers.
The Burke, Va. native picked a good time to finally get on the score sheet, assisting on a second half goal by Rachel Sheehy last Saturday to give Princeton a 1-0 lead over visiting Brown.
“We were lucky; we got a ball into the box and Caitlin Blosser fought hard in the middle and won a ball and then Sheehy was there to clean it up so it was a full team effort,” said Nabatoff. “It was my first point ever at Princeton; I got a lot of help from the people up there.”
The Tigers took things from there, adding a goal by Lynessa McGee and thwarting the Brown offense on the way to a 2-0 win as they improved to 7-3-1 overall and 3-0 in Ivy League play.
Even though the game was knotted 0-0 at half, Nabatoff believed that the Tigers would come through.
“We are definitely confident in how we are playing right now,” said Nabatoff.
“We aren’t really worried when the game gets late. We have confidence in Jen Hoy, Blosser, Lauren [Lazo], and anyone who is up top that they will get it done.”
The Tiger defense produced one its best efforts of the season as Princeton won its fifth straight game.
“We have given up a bunch of goals this season so it is nice to get a shutout,” said Nabatoff, noting that she was joined on the back line by Gabriella Guzman, Gabrielle Ragazzo, and childhood friend Diane Metcalf-Leggett along with goalie Claire Pinciaro.
“No matter how many goals we have given up this year, we definitely have an awesome back line and a good goalie. Even in the back, it is a full team effort and everyone does their job.”
The vocal Nabatoff directs traffic along the backline, shouting instructions all game long.
“I love being in that last line of defense; it is four players back there and we are all helping each other,” said Nabatoff, the 2009 Ivy Co-Rookie of the Year and a two-time All-Ivy selection.
The team’s group of eight seniors is trying to help Princeton enjoy a big year in their final campaign.
“I think as a class, we want it more than anything,” asserted Nabatoff. “Having a strong group of seniors who are all on the same page and know what they want really helps.”
Princeton head coach Julie Shackford credits Nabatoff and her classmates with playing a key role in her squad’s recent surge.
“When you have that big senior class, it makes all the difference in the world,” said Shackford, who is in her 18th season at the helm of the Tigers. “You can’t put a price tag on the experience of being in these games.”
In Shackford’s view, Nabatoff is one of her key seniors. “Alison is a phenomenal leader and communicator,” said Shackford. “In terms of being soccer savvy, she is our best, no question. She is not flashy but she gets the job done.”
The Tigers got the job done in the second half against Brown, sharpening up their finishing as the game went on.
“I thought we could have been a little sharper with the ball and could have gone forward a little bit quicker in the first half,” said Shackford.
“I don’t think it was our best half but I think we came out of it in the second half and had a good 25 minutes in that middle section and I think that was enough.”
Shackford credited senior midfielder Sheehy with providing sharp play all over the field.
“She has been phenomenal,” said Shackford. “She was our MVP today, I think, in terms of defending, attacking, and possession.”
In Shackford’s view, her team’s hot play of late is the product of an attacking mentality.
“They have all bought in,” said Shackford. “I think we know we can score goals which is really what every soccer team is looking to do. Jen [Hoy] hasn’t scored in three Ivy games. I think it is good to know that other people can score. We know we can score which is really a confidence builder.”
Nabatoff, for her part, is confident that the Tigers can be an Ivy title contender.
“We know that if we put our minds to it we can accomplish anything,” said Nabatoff. “We have to just keep working hard, that is the main thing. We can’t get complacent.”