For the the second-ranked Princeton University field hockey team, its 7-0 win over visiting Penn last Saturday marked the final step in its cakewalk to the Ivy League title.
In producing a 7-0 league mark and winning the program’s eighth straight crown, the Tigers outscored their Ivy foes by a total of 45-1 this fall.
While the lopsided nature of the wins gave the title an anticlimactic feel, Tiger head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn admired how her players handled their Ivy business.
“It means everything to win the league outright; our path to the NCAA tournament is through the league,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team improved to 16-1 overall with the victory.
“We know that we can’t mess up in the league and the players recognize that. We don’t take any moment for granted; we look at each game as an opportunity to get better. We didn’t want to concede a goal; we want to play as clean as we can on both sides of the ball.”
In the game on Saturday, the program got to honor its decorated group of seniors which includes Katie Reinprecht, Kat Sharkey, Amy Donovan, Molly Goodman, and Charlotte Krause.
“They really, really have been such an outstanding group of young women,” asserted Holmes-Winn.
“They have been great leaders on and off the field; I can’t do justice to them in a few words. They have been so special and selfless; they have had to redefine their role. They have done that in a graceful way and have helped propel the team.”
Sharkey rose to the occasion in her final appearance at Bedford Field, scoring four goals to increase her season total to 29.
“Sharkey did what she does best but she will tell you that she has one of the best, if not the best, midfield in the country behind her, helping to feed her the ball,” said Holmes-Winn, who also got three goals from sophomore star Allison Evans in the victory over the Quakers.
“All the strikers have benefitted; the midfield is really combining with the front of the field.”
Now the Tigers will get the chance to prove they are the best team in the country as they compete in the NCAA tournament. Princeton is slated to play at No. 12 Lafayette on November 6 in a play-in game with the first and second round games to take place this weekend.
“I think we are in a great spot on both sides of the ball; we have been achieving fluidity,” said Holmes-Winn, reflecting on her team’s NCAA prospects.
“We are getting players opportunities for space and time; creating spaces in the front that have troubled the top teams. We need to trust what we do and be ready to bring it.”
Princeton will be bringing it in the game against Patriot League champion Lafayette (16-1 overall, 6-0 Patriot) even though its spot in the tourney’s main draw is assured by its ranking and wins over such national powers Maryland, Duke, Wake Forest, Connecticut, Penn State, and Virginia.
“I think they have the lowest goals against average in the country; they are accustomed to winning,” said Holmes-Winn of the Leopards.
“They are No. 10 in the RPI; they are really good. Our team feels fortunate to play a team of that caliber in the play-in game. They are really pumped to play and looking at it as a win-win situation. It is an opportunity to go out against a quality opponent and get sharp for Saturday. We will throw everything at them like it is a first-round game.”