Sparked by Asom’s Hot Performance on Chilly Night, PU Women’s Soccer Tops Monmouth in NCAA Opener
CHILLING EFFECT: Princeton University women’s soccer player Mimi Asom, right, goes up for a header last Friday night as the Tigers hosted Monmouth in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. Braving the Arctic blast that hit the area, junior forward Asom heated things up with two goals and an assist to help Princeton prevail 4-0. The Tigers, now 15-2 overall, face North Carolina State (15-5-1) in a second round contest on November 17 in Cary, N.C. It marks a rematch of a regular season game on September 2 which saw the Tigers defeat the Wolfpack 2-0. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
For Mimi Asom, a native of Dallas, Texas, the arctic weather that chilled the area last Friday as the Princeton University women’s soccer team hosted Monmouth in the opening round of the NCAA tournament was a shock to the system.
“This is the coldest I have ever been in my life, period,” said Asom. “I am so cold.”
But with the junior forward leading the charge, Princeton came out on fire before a hardy crowd of 798 on hand at Roberts Stadium as temperatures dipped into the 20s with a wind chill in the teens.
“I think we did really well this game starting really hard in the first five minutes,” said Asom. “We were getting opportunities; from the get-go, we came out swinging.”
Nearly six minutes into the contest, Asom took advantage of an opportunity, firing a shot into the back of the net to give Princeton a 1-0 lead.
“The coaches have been having me work on driving forward instead of diagonal,” said Asom.
“I just drove down the line and cut it back across. I saw the open net so I went for it.”
About 14 minutes later, Asom helped create another goal, slotting a pass that Abby Givens banged home to give Princeton a 2-0 lead.
“There was great ball movement, I got the ball and I got my hips turned around,” recalled Asom.
“I couldn’t tell who it was but I saw someone darting around so I figured I should just go for it.”
Midway through the second half, Asom came up with another great play to put the game out of reach, blasting a shot by the Monmouth goalie as Princeton extended its lead to 3-0 on the way to a 4-0 win over the Hawks. Princeton, now 15-2 overall, faces North Carolina State (15-5-1) in a second round contest on November 17 in Cary, N.C. in a rematch of a regular season meeting on September 2 won 2-0 by the Tigers.
“It has been said all of the time that a 2-0 lead is the most dangerous lead in soccer,” said Asom, who scored two goals in a 4-2 win over Boston College in the opening round in 2015, Princeton’s last home appearance in the NCAA tourney.
“In the locker room at halftime all we kept talking about was getting that third goal so we could set the pace for the game and kill their spirits.”
In reflecting on Princeton’s success this fall, Asom points to the squad’s daily diligence.
“It is definitely the work ethic, the team fundamentally believes in giving its all every moment that it is together,” said Asom, who now has 10 goals on the season. “When we play, the work we have put in at practice every day shows.”
Princeton head coach Sean Driscoll liked his the way his players seized the moment last Friday.
“I was really impressed with how we came out, we played with a lot of energy, as I expected we would,” said Driscoll, whose team had defeated Monmouth 3-0 in its season opener in late August.
“We played well and got an early goal which really set the tempo. We created a lot of other opportunities.”
Driscoll was particularly impressed by Asom. “Mimi has played very well, she held the ball up really well,” said Driscoll. “She was getting us in a good dangerous position; she was very effective.”
The team’s defensive unit was also very effective as it held the Hawks to six shots on the way to the clean sheet.
“Our backs did very, very well; there was a period of time in the second half where we lost the plot a little in the middle of the field,” said Driscoll. “That line (seniors Natalie Larkin, Katie Pratt-Thompson, and Mikaela Symanovich along with freshman Luck Rickerson) has done very well all season, I think that was our 12th shutout.”
Princeton’s resounding victory surprised even Driscoll. “It is not very often that you can have a decisive victory in the first round, all of those teams belong in this tournament,” said Driscoll.
“Monmouth is a tremendous team, they are well coached. To make a statement like that, I am really impressed. I didn’t know what the result of the game was going to be tonight but I knew it was going to be a very difficult one. I was really, really happy with how we performed.”
With Princeton having gone 2-0 on a swing to North Carolina earlier this season, topping Wake Forest 2-0 in addition to the win over N.C. State, Driscoll believes the Tigers can keep performing at a high level.
“It is a deep team; it is a very collective unit,” said Driscoll, whose squad would face the winner of the North Carolina-Colorado second round contest in a Round of 16 game on Sunday if it can get by N.C. State.
“They all work hard together, they work for each other, they enjoy playing together, and playing for one another. We are happy to play anybody and I like the idea that we are a good team, I feel we can compete with anyone in the country.”
Asom, for her part, shares Driscoll’s sentiments. “It is so great because if you key in on someone and there are two people who are going to be able to do it just as well, it just makes us so hard to beat,” said Asom. “This is definitely the best team I have seen in my three years here so I am excited to see how we do.”