Sparked by Defender Wolf’s Solid Play, PU Men’s Soccer Stays in Ivy Title Race
LONE WOLF: Princeton University men’s soccer player Richard Wolf goes after the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, junior defender Wolf helped Princeton battle to a 1-1 tie with Cornell. The Tigers, now 10-3-2 overall and 2-1-2 Ivy League, play at Penn on November 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Richard Wolf earned All-Ivy League honors in his first two seasons for the Princeton University men’s soccer team but he was primed to do more this fall.
“I like to think I have taken a little bit more of a leadership position,” said junior defender Wolf, a 6’0, 190-pound native of Annandale, N.J.
“I got my first goal as well and then I got my second one. That has been a nice change. I haven’t scored in the past three years so it was really nice to get on the score sheet.”
Last Saturday, Wolf displayed his leadership on the back line as Princeton battled Cornell to a 1-1 tie though regulation and 20 minutes of overtime, moving to 10-3-2 overall and 2-1-2 Ivy League.
“It was a classic Ivy League game; they probably made us feel more uncomfortable than we have felt in past games with how much they press,” said Wolf. “We didn’t play as much through the middle as we usually do. We played a little longer.”
Although Princeton yielded a goal in the second half as Cornell evened the contest at 1-1, Wolf liked the way the Tigers played down the stretch of regulation.
“We fixed it up a little in the second half and found our feet and got it wide,” said Wolf.
“I think the change in formation in the second half to a 4-3-3 helped us. At times we didn’t hold up enough at the front so as a result they got a lot of throws and corners. We were under for a little bit and that is how the goal came eventually but I felt we were pretty solid for the most part.”
Going into overtime, Wolf and his teammates were confident they would come through with a victory.
“We were very optimistic and we got a few chances in there that I wish we had put away,” said Wolf. “It is a tough result.”
The Tigers have proven to be tough to beat, having gone 5-0-2 in their last seven games and 9-1-2 since starting 1-2.
“I think we have found a way with the 4-4-2 formation and a diamond midfield,” said Wolf.
“I feel we have been really dominant in the midfield. We have been crushing teams through the middle. They can’t handle us and it makes us get a lot of chances. It has also been sorting out the play up top with our two forwards and the interchange with that.”
Princeton head coach Jim Barlow was disappointed that his team didn’t find a way to overcome the Big Red.
“We had a 1-0 lead and then we had a couple of really good chances to win it,” said Barlow, whose team took the lead on a header by freshman Walker Gillespie 7:26 into the contest.
“I am disappointed with the result. I didn’t think that we had a good first half; it’s soccer, you don’t play well in the first half and you win the first half. Then we play really well in the second half and concede. I thought by far our better half was the second half.”
Princeton played well in the overtime, outshooting Cornell 7-2.
“I think that the guys believed right up until the end that we could get one, even in the last couple of minutes,” said Barlow. “It gives argument that there should be an Ivy League tournament.”
Barlow credited Wolf with helping the Tigers at both ends of the field. “He is really solid,” said Barlow. “I don’t think that Richard did as well in the first half with the ball as he did in the second half. In the second half, he started a lot of our attacks with some good balls forward and some longer balls too.
The tie left Princeton in the position of needing help from other teams to win the Ivy crown even if it wins its last two league games. Yale is currently in first with a 4-1 Ivy mark, followed by Dartmouth at 3-1-1 and Penn tied with the Tigers at 2-1-2.
“We just to keep at it, we have improved all year, you never know what is going to happen in the other games,” said Barlow, whose team plays at Penn on November 9 and hosts Yale on November 16 and would be in the mix for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament if it wins out but does not take the Ivy title.
“Brown would need to get a result against Yale and then we would need to beat Yale and Penn and Dartmouth would need to slip up somewhere too. All of those things can happen so we will see.”
Wolf, for his part, believes that Tigers will remain focused on taking care of their business.
“It is the same challenge, we have got to hope for other results at this point,” said Wolf.
“It is just keep playing the way we are playing and play a little more through the middle, going back to the style that has been successful for us this season.”