Star Forward Asom Comes up Big on Senior Day As PU Women’s Soccer Edges Penn, Makes NCAAs
MOMENT OF GLORY: Princeton University women’s soccer player Mimi Asom, right, celebrates after she scored the lone goal in Princeton’s 1-0 win over visiting Penn last Saturday. As a result of the victory, Princeton clinched a tie for the Ivy league title with the Quakers and earned the league’s automatic berth to the NCAA tournament. The Tigers, now 11-3-2 overall, will be playing at Texas Tech (13-5-2 overall) in the opening round of the NCAA tournament on November 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
As Mimi Asom soaked in the emotion of her Senior Day ceremony with Princeton University women’s soccer team last Saturday, she was determined to extend her career beyond the evening.
Princeton needed a win over visiting Penn in the season finale to clinch a share of the Ivy League title with the Quakers and earn the league’s automatic berth to the upcoming NCAA tournament.
“I love this team; it has been my whole world for the last four years,” said senior forward Asom.
“We just went in with a mindset that we are playing because we want to spend another week together. We want to got to NCAAs to have another week to train and practice together.”
Asom ensured that the Tigers would get that extra time together, tallying the lone goal in Princeton’s 1-0 win over Penn. As a result of the victory, Princeton clinched a tie for the Ivy League title with the Quakers and earned the league’s automatic berth to the NCAA tournament. The Tigers, now 11-3-2 overall, will be playing at Texas Tech (13-5-2 overall) in the opening round of the NCAA tournament on November 9.
Asom’s tally came nearly 31 minutes into the contest as she got possession, turned, and fired the ball into the net.
“One of our coaches, Mike Poller, told me I needed to stop doing moves and just take touches, pass people and shoot, “ said Asom, a 5’5 native of Dallas, Texas who has 12 goals this season and 43 in her career, third best in program history. “So I just took a big touch and the girl wasn’t expecting it and it was just placement from there.”
From there, the Princeton defense stymied the Quakers. “This back line is one of the strongest I have ever played with, all five of them just work so hard,” said Asom. “They are are so organized and disciplined; we would be nothing this season without them.”
The Tigers saved their season with a late surge, earning four straight wins after a 3-2 loss to Brown on October 6.
“We just developed this mindset where we stopped putting as much pressure on ourselves,” said Asom. “It might not be in our hands at this point, but all we can do is work our hardest day in, day out and trust in each other and get through it.”
Princeton head coach Sean Driscoll has developed a deeper trust with his players, going through a tough fall as his mother lost her battle with cancer, passing away last week.
“There has been a lot of emotion all season really, the kids have had to endure a tough time in my life and they continue to inspire me and help me,” said Driscoll.
“There is emotion in that and there is emotion in being a senior day. It is a very selfless group of kids; each one of them said this I don’t care how much I play tonight as long as the team gets the result. The team comes first; that is a message you want for every team.”
Driscoll was not surprised that Asom tallied the goal that got Princeton the winning result.
“She has been incredibly consistent over her career,” said Driscoll, noting that Asom had 12 goals as a freshman, nine as a sophomore, and 10 last fall.
“It is hard to score goals at any level, and certainly in this league it is not easy. Penn conceded four goals all season and only one in the league so they are very, very good. It was very fitting on Senior Night that she was able to get a goal and help us win another game.”
In Driscoll’s view, his defensive unit, which has yielded 0.56 goals a game this fall, has helped Princeton pull out a number of wins.
“They have been really, really good,” said Driscoll, who has used Olivia Sheppard, Lucy Rickerson, Tatum Gee, Eve Hewins, Emily Hilliard-Arce, and Aza Keohan on the back line with Natalie Grossi starring at goalie.
“That group has contributed to 12 shutouts in a season where we came in with a new back line and kind of a new midfield. They kept us in a lot of games, that is the reality of it. When you don’t concede goals, you have got a chance to win games.
Producing an uneven start to Ivy play, it looked like Princeton had a slim chance of defending its league title.
“Going 1-1-1, every game after that was a must win, and so with their backs to the wall, they pitched four straight shutouts, “ said Driscoll.
“We had a meeting with the captains and myself; they brought up some very good points. They rallied around the team and did an even better job of leading. The team followed suit, you could see it to win at Columbia (1-0 on October 14); that was the team that had the best record against us since I have been here. Then we beat Harvard here (2-0 on October 20) and then found a way to get result in terrible conditions at Cornell (2-0 on October 27) and then beat a very good Penn team.”
With Princeton having advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals last fall, Driscoll believes this year’s team possesses the resolve to make a run in the national tourney.
“We are certainly on a high; we are not conceding any goals, so that always makes you an interesting team to play against,” said Driscoll.
“At the end of the day, team success comes down to confidence and belief. There is a very clear belief in this group; they have been through a lot this year. This championship is the most challenging one we have won.
Asom, for her part, is going to savor her extra time with the group, no matter how long it extends.
“This team has an extreme amount of talent but furthermore so much heart and those are some of the most important things,” said Asom.
“Whether it is one game in the tournament or three or four, it doesn’t really matter as long as we give it 100 percent and I know we will.”