September 27, 2017

Buoyed by Victory Over No. 10 Maryland, Princeton Field Hockey Posts 2-0 Weekend

BACK ON TRACK: Princeton University field hockey player Maddie Bacskai controls the ball in recent action. Last Sunday, senior star Bacskai scored the lone goal as 17th-ranked Princeton defeated No. 24 Boston University 1-0 to post its third straight win. The Tigers, now 4-4 overall and 1-0 Ivy League, host Yale on September 29 and play at No. 6 Syracuse on October 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Running through a gauntlet of nationally ranked foes, the Princeton University field hockey team went winless in its first four contests against Top 20 squads this fall.

Last week, 17th-ranked Princeton broke through against No. 10 Maryland, posting a dramatic 2-1 win over the Terps on September 19, taking a 2-0 lead and then holding off a furious charge from their foes.

In the view of Princeton head coach Carla Tagliente, the victory over Maryland gave her squad a major boost of confidence.

“We have been knocking on the door in those games,” said Tagliente, whose team lost 2-1 to No. 4 Duke and 2-0 to third-ranked Penn State in his last two appearances before the Maryland game.

“I do think it was a little bit of a tipping point for us to get some momentum. In that stretch of those games that we played, it was important that we get one or two wins. To lose by a goal or two on all of those games is a bit tough mentally to come out of. It was good to get that win and in the fashion that we did it as well.”

Keeping the momentum going into last weekend, Princeton won 5-0 at Dartmouth last Saturday in the Ivy League opener for both teams and then edged No. 24 Boston University 1-0 a day later on a goal by Maddie Bacskai.

“I think our kids like the competitive schedule but they were looking forward to starting Ivy play,” said Tagliente.

“Every game is different and has a little bit of an unknown quantity to it in terms of some teams are a little bit unorthodox. I think the team was ready to get going and establish themselves and send a message about how we are going to approach each game in the Ivy League.”

Against Dartmouth, the Tigers jumped out to a 3-0 halftime lead and then held the Big Green without a shot in the second half in pulling away to the win.

“I think they had all of their shots and opportunities in the first half, we closed that down in the second half,” said Tagliente.

“I think overall that we cleaned some things up at halftime and put on a lot more pressure.”

In the win over Boston University, the Tigers clamped down in the second half again, holding the Terriers to one shot over the last 35 minutes of the contest in posting their third straight victory and improving to 4-4.

“Their better opportunities came in the first half; we had a little bit of disorganization but in the second half, we had the ball in our half for 95 percent of the time,” said Tagliente.

“They were hitting some long balls trying to relieve pressure and try to break an opportunity. After we got through a half of hockey and settled in, we did a pretty nice job.”

The Princeton defense has been doing a very nice job in recent play. “We have made a few tweaks in personnel back there and defensively, we are a lot more sound at the moment,” said Tagliente, citing sophomore Bacskai as sparking the back line. “I like what I see from that.”

Tagliente likes what she is seeing from senior striker Ryan McCarty, who had two goals and an assist in the win over Dartmouth and now has a team-high six goals in the season.

“Ryan has been doing a nice job, she settled in on penalty corners and has knocked in a couple of goals,” said Tagliente of McCarthy, who was named the Ivy League Player of the Week for her production.

“She is so dangerous in the open field, she is so fast. Things are starting to fall in place for her. She made a few changes to her game and the production has been coming in from her.”

The Tigers are also getting some production from their freshman players.

“Some of the younger players like Mary Kate Neff, Marge Lynch, and Clara Roth have come along in terms of how we are playing, how we are pressing, and how we are defending,” said Tagliente.

With Princeton hosting Yale on September 29 before playing at No. 6 Syracuse on October 1, Tagliente believes her team is coming along collectively. 

“We are doing well, the goal production over the last couple of games has been good; I think we should have knocked in a couple of more against Boston University,” said Tagliente.

“But a win is a win at this point and it gets us to .500 at about the halfway point. I thought we would probably be 6-2, but I will take 4-4 right now with the schedule that we play.”