September 9, 2015

Freshman Striker Tornetta Makes Immediate Impact As PU Field Hockey Progresses on Opening Weekend


SUDDEN IMPACT: Princeton University field hockey player Sophia Tornetta, left, goes after the ball in action this weekend as the Tigers got their season underway. Freshman striker Tornetta notched Princeton’s first goal of the season in a 5-2 loss to second-ranked North Carolina on Friday and chipped in an assist and scored on a penalty stroke as No. 15 Princeton fell 4-3 to No. 9 Virginia two days later. The Tigers play at Bucknell on September 12 and at Delaware a day later. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Sophia Tornetta didn’t waste any time making an impact in her first weekend playing for the Princeton University field hockey team.

In the season opener against visiting North Carolina last Friday, freshman striker Tornetta notched Princeton’s first goal of the season in a 5-2 loss to the second-ranked Tar Heels.

On Sunday, Tornetta chipped in an assist and scored on a penalty stroke to help No. 15 Princeton take a 3-2 second half lead against No. 9 Virginia. The Cavaliers, though, scored a goal in the last minute of regulation and then tallied in overtime to pull out a 4-3 win over the Tigers.

While Tornetta would have preferred to see the Tigers come out of the weekend with a victory, she enjoyed her indoctrination to college field hockey.

“I would say the speed and tempo was a lot different than high school,” said Tornetta, a native of Plymouth Meeting, Pa. and a former star for powerhouse Agnes Irwin.

“I would say the team as a whole is different too. I don’t think I have met a group of girls so dedicated to the sport and so focused. It rubs off on me 100 percent, there are 23 of us so I have 22 role models.”

Bouncing back from the 5-2 loss North Carolina, which saw Princeton get outshot 26-6, the Tigers displayed that dedication and focus as they battled Virginia hard from the opening whistle.

“We came out as a completely different team,” asserted Tornetta. “We were so strong, we worked together, and our vision improved 100 percent. If we can improve this much between one game to the next, at the end of the season, we are going be unstoppable and a team to be reckoned with.”

Jumping out to 1-0 lead on a Hailey Reeves goal 15 minutes into the contest gave Princeton a strong boost.

“It changed the mentality, as anyone on the sidelines could see,” said Tornetta, reflecting on the tally by junior back Reeves, which came off a penalty corner.

“Once we get that first goal in, we are relentless. We keep going, we don’t give up any easy ball and the most important thing is that we function as a unit. There is not one person who stands out; whatever we do, we do together.”

The Tigers worked together well on penalty corners all game long and knotted the game at 2-2 midway through the second half as Tornetta picked up an assist on a Cat Caro goal that came from another set piece.

“It is something we take a lot of pride in and we practice them like crazy,” said Tornetta. “We all know if we are given that opportunity, we will execute.”

With 9:39 left in regulation, Tornetta executed on a penalty stroke, lifting a shot over the Virginia goalie to give the Tigers a 3-2 lead.

“There is a lot of pressure because this could be the game winner,” said Tornetta, reflecting on the stroke.

“There are so many different things going through my mind but I just remember what the coaches instruct, they say take a deep breath. You walk up, you know where you are going and you stick to that and basically tune out everything. You are chosen for a reason and we all believe in you and to know that I had the entire team behind me, that is what drove me to do my best.”

In the overtime, Tornetta showed her drive, making two defensive saves as she cleared shots that got through the Princeton defense.

“Our goalkeeper Anya Gersoff is absolutely phenomenal and I knew that she made the first save and she is the last person I want to let the ball get behind,” said Tornetta.

“I don’t care if the ball hits my body or my face or anything, this ball is not going into the net because she worked so hard. I was honestly willing to do anything to not let that happen.”

Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn liked the hard work she got from her players in the Virginia game.

“I think that every minute we have been on the field, we have gotten better,” said Holmes-Winn.

“I loved to see our fitness in the second half; that really showed through big time. We really controlled the bulk of the play in the second half so I was really happy with that.”

Holmes-Winn acknowledged that defensive lapses hurt the Tigers down the stretch against the Cavaliers.

“It comes down to situational awareness, we made some really poor decisions in the back end in the second half,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team outshot Virginia 12-5 in the second half.

“When you have players like No. 8 (Tara Vittese), she is the best player in the country in my view and that is what she does. We were able to slow her down a little bit.”

With Princeton playing at Bucknell on September 12 and at Delaware a day later, Holmes-Winn believes her squad is headed in the right direction.

“It was tough to take a thumping like that on Friday but they said in the locker room before this game that it was about the details every moment, it is about the progress, it is about where we end up,” said Holmes-Winn.

“Every time we step on the field, we have to get the most out of it. I think this group is a really good group and I know that they are going to keep working. They are very, very focused on progress and development. I know they are going to keep getting better.”

Tornetta, for her part, is thrilled to be with the Princeton group.

“We are just an amazing team with the leadership of the seniors, juniors, and sophomores,” said Tornetta.

“They are such a unique, caring, and loving group of girls that have each other’s back no matter what. It is something I am blessed to be part of.”