September 18, 2019

Roth Triggers Offense with Big Weekend As No. 5 PU Field Hockey Improves to 3-1

STICKING WITH IT: Princeton University field hockey player Clara Roth hits the ball against Penn State last Sunday. Junior star striker Roth scored both goals for fifth-ranked Princeton as it rallied for a 2-1 win over the Nittany Lions. The Tigers, now 3-1, host No. 21 Rutgers on September 20 and No. 3 UConn on September 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Clara Roth emerged as a force last fall for the Princeton University field hockey team, scoring 13 goals on the way to being named the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year.

As junior striker Roth started the 2019 season, she had a quiet first weekend, picking up one assist as Princeton fell 4-3 to North Carolina on September 6 before edging Wake Forest 2-1 in double overtime two days later.

With Princeton hosting Albany last Friday and Penn State on Sunday, Roth displayed the form that earned her accolades last year. She had three assists in a 4-3 win over Albany and then scored both goals as Princeton rallied from a 1-0 deficit to edge Penn State 2-1.

“I think it was really important for us after last weekend,” said Roth, a native of Schwetzingen, Germany.

“It was a tough loss to UNC. Coming back and winning three games straight and winning our first home games is so important for us.”

In reflecting on the comeback against Penn State, Roth said the focus was on  finishing opportunities.

“It was taking a deep breath, and resetting our brains in the locker room over halftime,” said Roth.

“We needed to bring the energy out there and use the chances we had. We did really well outletting so then it was just staying on the ball and showing composure.”

Roth displayed composure, breaking the ice for the Tigers with a blast from a tight spot nearly parallel to the goal midway through the third period.

“It was a pretty difficult angle on the base line so I thought I would just hit it and see if it goes in,” said Roth, noting that she got a lift from having her parents on hand last weekend as they made the trip from Germany.

With 3:23 remaining in regulation, Roth struck again, tallying the winning goal on a scramble off a penalty corner.

“It was a good hit on goal and then I just got the rebound,” said Roth, who was later named the Ivy League Co-Offensive Player of the Week. “I was lucky to be there, I was down and ready for it.”

Having developed into a key scorer for the Tigers, Roth has been looking to be more of a leader this fall.

“With Sophia Tornetta graduating, I have been taking on a bigger role on attack,” said Roth.

“I have really been trying to get everyone else to step up as leaders. We have have a bunch of people step up in the team, which is really nice.”

Princeton head coach Carla Tagliente liked the way her team stepped up in the second half against Penn State as it improved to 3-1.

“We changed the press a little bit to apply more pressure, trying to change tempo,” said Tagliente.

“That worked and then we kind of pulled it off and went back to what we were doing because I thought we would be too exposed in the middle with them. It was good.”

Tagliente credited Roth with producing a very good weekend. “She has been a little bit quiet in the first three games in terms of goal scoring,” said Tagliente.

“I think the last game, getting three assists was big. This was her best game so far, you really saw her dominate with the ball. You don’t see end line shots too often, she ripped that shot. It was great awareness on the corner to pick that up, our shooting was not that straight today.”

The Tigers showed good awareness in the waning moments of the game as they deftly controlled the ball, preventing the Nittany Lions from making a rally.

“If the Carolina game doesn’t happen, I think this last minute looks a lot more hectic,” said Tagliente.

“You saw Hannah Davey come out of the middle and Clara come back because they are two of our better ball carriers and be on the ball and close out the last minute. Whereas with UNC, it was I don’t want the ball you take it. The last minute today was very nice. It was big growth from last weekend to this weekend, sometimes you have got to learn hard lessons.”

With Princeton hosting No. 21 Rutgers on September 20 and No. 3 UConn on September 22, Tagliente believes her team can build on the hard-earned wins it achieved last weekend.

“I didn’t think these two games would be easy,” said Tagliente. “Albany is a tough matchup, they are very physical. Penn State is always a good game; they have a tough schedule and they have one-goal losses to everybody so they are right there. It is a great weekend for us, especially going into next weekend with two more good teams coming in.”

Roth, for her part, sees good things ahead for the Tigers. “We will get back to practice this week and go all out,” said Roth. “We have a great team this year with a great incoming freshman class. It is really positive.”