October 14, 2015

Sparked by Sura’s Return From Hip Operation, PU Women’s Soccer Rises to Top of Ivy Standings

Princeton University women's soccer vs.  Duquesne

SURE FOOTED: Princeton University women’s soccer player Emily Sura patrols the field in a game earlier this season. Last Wednesday, senior captain and star defender Sura contributed a goal as Princeton defeated Army West Point 4-1. On Saturday, Sura and the Tigers topped Brown 4-0 to improve to 9-3 overall and 3-0 Ivy League and with their seventh straight game. Princeton hosts Lehigh on October 14 and Columbia on October 17. (Photo by Beverly Schaefer, Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Emily Sura is trying to make up for lost time this fall as she plays in her senior campaign for the Princeton University women’s soccer team.

Struggling with a hip injury over the last two years, Sura only played in eight games as a sophomore and five games as a junior.

Last November, Sura had surgery to repair the torn labrum that was plaguing her as she looked to be at full speed for the 2015 season.

“It was about a seven-month recovery, I started playing again in July,” said Sura.

“The rehab is hard, you spend an hour and half before practice and then you come out and watch your teammates. It is boiling up in you for an entire year.”

From the start of preseason in late August, Sura has been a revelation, establishing herself as a fixture on the back line for the Tigers. The native of Austin, Texas has started every game so far this fall.

“I didn’t play in the spring so now senior year is that last go around but it is the first go around I have had in a long time,” said Sura.

“I am so lucky because it is kind of a new surgery so they were unsure about the recovery time. They didn’t know if it was going to heal really well. It has been amazing.”

Hosting Army West Point last Wednesday, Princeton was unlucky in the early going, yielding a goal five minutes into the contest. With Sura scoring on a free kick and freshman Samantha McDonough tallying her first career goal, the Tigers fought their way to a 2-1 lead at halftime.

“We responded pretty quickly,” said Sura. “I think the whole first half, we were battling with them back and forth. We never really gained possession so it was nice to get those two goals to give us a little bit of a safety net.”

On her tally, Sura was able to wind the ball into the back of the net from just outside the 18.

“It was pretty close in; they had about four or five people in the wall so I knew I was going to have to bend it to get it around the keeper,” recalled Sura “It lined in and went in luckily.”

The Tigers didn’t need any luck in the second half, outshooting Army 9-4 with sophomore Vanessa Gregoire and freshman Mimi Asom scoring goals as Princeton pulled way to a 4-1 triumph.

“In the second half, we got it down and played our game,” said Sura. “We really turned it on and got possession.”

On Saturday, the Tigers turned it on again, rolling to a 4-0 win at Brown, winning their seventh straight game in improving to 9-3 overall and 2-0 Ivy League.

“It is character, charisma,” maintained Sura, reflecting on the squad’s hot streak.

“We are a small team. We only have 23 people and usually we have 28 but everyone wants to win, everyone wants to be there. The energy in even single practice has been unbelievable and I think that’s what has been really carrying us along.”

As a senior captain, Sura has been looking to help carry the leadership role for the Tigers.

“We only have three seniors so in terms of numbers with upperclassmen we are pretty small,” said Sura.

“We have a huge underclassmen presence and we are really lucky for the freshmen and sophomores, they have been doing really well for us. I think it is encouraging everyone to be a leader and encouraging everyone to step up. You have got to get everyone in that senior mentality.”

Princeton head coach Sean Driscoll liked the way his team stepped up after falling behind Army.

“They got that early goal, that was certainly not in the cards; we didn’t expect that to happen,” said Driscoll.

“We responded with four goals so that is a good response. The score line is a good one for us.”

While Driscoll acknowledged that the Tigers weren’t at their sharpest, he liked the grit they displayed in getting the result.

“We have played better soccer than we did tonight, I was really worried about this game because all of the focus is on this weekend,” said Driscoll

“They are a very determined group; they want to win badly. Your good teams find ways to win when they are not playing great; that is a good thing.”

It is a good thing for Princeton to have Sura at full speed. “Emmie, after being out for effectively two years, has been a really, really bright spot,” said Driscoll of Sura, who has two goals and three assists this season.

“She is doing a good job as a captain and she has gotten some goals. She got a goal for us against Fordham earlier in the season to win the game and that was a huge goal to get us back on track. I think when you sit out for two years, you start to appreciate the opportunity to play. She is certainly grabbing it and running with it. She has done very well.”

The Tigers are taking advantage of opportunities at the offensive end, having averaged more than three goals a game during their winning streak. “We score a lot of goals,” said Driscoll. “We have a lot of talented attacking players and they are distributing the wealth, which is nice. We have a lot of weapons from Tyler to Mimi to Natalie. Vanessa’s goal tonight was really nice. Sam McDonough, for the first time this season, got herself going. We have a lot of options, that is good. We need production from multiple people.”

The first-year Princeton head coach believes that he and his players are on the same page, helping to explain how the Tigers have shot to the top of the Ivy standings along with Harvard (6-6-1 overall, 3-0 Ivy).

“We are on a very good streak,” said Driscoll, whose team hosts Lehigh on October 14 and Columbia on October 17.

“It is about belief, they believe they can win. The more and more time you are together, you jell. I think we have a good understanding of what we all want. They are very easy to motivate. You can challenge them, you can push their buttons and they usually respond. It is positive, they are a really good group.”

Sura, for her part, knows that earning an Ivy crown is going to be big challenge.

“We have got to keep going,” said Sura. “It is a long road, every single game in the Ivies is a championship game.”