Junior Star Bacskai Comes Through in Clutch, Helping PU Field Hockey Make NCAA Semis
PUSH BACK: Princeton University field hockey player Maddie Bacskai tracks the ball last Friday against Virginia in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. Junior defender Bacskai scored the winning goal in the game as the Tigers edged the Cavaliers 2-1. Two days later against Harvard in the NCAA quarterfinals, Bacskai struck again, tallying the winning goal in a 2-1 victory over the Crimson. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Maddie Bacskai knew from personal experience that the Princeton University field hockey team was in for a battle when it hosted Virginia in the first round of the NCAA tournament last Friday.
“We have played them in the tournament every year I have been here,” said junior defender Bacskai, who helped Princeton prevail in both of those previous matchups as the Tigers won 3-2 in 2016 and 3-2 in double overtime last year. “It was fun to see that we would playing them again; there is a little bit of history between the two of us.”
The rivals lived up to that history of close contests in round three as the game was knotted 1-1 at half.
“Both teams came out with a lot of energy,” said Bacskai. “In the first half, we did decently but we weren’t getting the results we wanted. We just said keep our heads down, keep doing the work, and hopefully the results will come.”
With 24:03 left in the second half, Bacskai helped get Princeton the result it wanted, scoring off a sweet feed from Julianna Tornetta on a penalty corner.
“Julianna set it up perfectly for me,” said Bacskai. “I was hoping to go near side and I was able to get it in there so it was really exciting. It did feel like a good hit. We were practicing it a lot this week and I was glad that I was able to pull through and make it happen.”
With the Tiger defense holding the fort the rest of the way, Princeton pulled through for a 2-1 victory.
“The defensive effort all over the field was really what gave us the momentum and kept us on the attack in the second half,” said the 5’5 Bacskai, a native of Berwyn, Pa. who is a three-time first-team All-Ivy league selection and was the league’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2017. “Everyone was tackling back, trying to put pressure on and stepping in front of their marks. That really gave us the edge.”
Playing before a raucous home crowd also helped give Princeton an edge. “It is super exciting to have such a big fan base; some of the students and some of our friends are here and, of course, our parents,” said Bacskai, who provided another exciting moment against Harvard in the NCAA quarters on Sunday, tallying the winning goal in a 2-1 come-from-behind victory as Princeton improved to 15-4 and punched its ticket to the NCAA Final 4. “It is fun hearing the cheering and all of the excitement from the stands.”