MAC ATTACK: Princeton University field hockey player Ryan McCarthy goes after the ball last Saturday against visiting Brown. Junior star McCarthy tallied a goal and an assist in the game as 11th-ranked Princeton defeated the Bears 5-1. A day later, McCarthy scored two goals as the Tigers rolled to an 8-0 win over Towson. Princeton, now 9-5 overall and 4-0 Ivy League, is next in action when it hosts Harvard (8-4 overall, 4-0 Ivy) in a game that will be pivotal in the race for the league title. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
It didn’t take long for the 11th-ranked Princeton University field hockey team to set the tone as it hosted Brown last Saturday in a critical Ivy League contest.
Just 1:21 into the game, Princeton senior star Cat Caro tallied off a penalty corner as the Tigers jumped into a 1-0 lead. After a second Caro goal, junior standout Ryan McCarthy assisted on a goal by Rachel Park and then found the back of the cage herself for a goal as the Tigers built a 4-0 halftime lead.
“We had a lot of energy, we were composed and we took control of the game,” said McCarthy in assessing Princeton’s first half performance. “We just had possession the whole time and were passing really well.”
Good passing helped McCarthy get on the score sheet. “It was a perfect pass from Carlotta (von Gierke); she saw me coming out and I circled around and saw Rachel in the right spot and she was there to put it in,” said McCarthy, a 5’4 native of Madison, N.J.
“My goal was another pass from Lotty, I just took it in, saw the net and shot it in.”
In the second half, Brown got one in to make it 4-1 but the Tigers responded with another tally by Caro to put the finishing touch on a 5-1 victory.
“We kind of lost our tempo and we took time out, regrouped and went back in and dominated the last 10 minutes,” said McCarthy.
McCarthy looks to keep the tempo up for the Princeton attack. “I am a forward so we run a lot; you build off of everybody’s energy,” said McCarthy.
“It starts from the defense to the midfield and then forward. I think it is a whole team effort that brings the energy.”
Having tallied seven goals and four assists in 2015, McCarthy has brought up her production, contributing 11 goals and four assists so far this season.
“The team has been giving me perfect balls, perfect passes, they are always in the right spot,” said McCarthy, who scored two goals in an 8-0 win over Towson last Sunday as the Tigers improved to 9-5 overall.
With Princeton in a good spot as it heads into the final weeks of the season, McCarthy credits the coaching staff with instilling cohesion on the field.
“The team has come together really well this year,” said McCarthy. “The new coaches (head coach Carla Tagliente and assistant Dina Rizzo) are a big part of that. They have really led the charge and got us going where we need to go this year.”
Princeton head coach Tagliente certainly liked the way her squad charged out of the gate in the win over Brown.
“Everything was real sharp, the defense was sharp and basic skills were clean,” said Tagliente.
“Everything was really clicking; it helps when you get a couple on the board. With this team, they are so athletic and when they can defend well and they do those simple things well, it really lends to what we can do on attack.”
Although the Tigers went through a brief lull in the second half when Brown scored to make it a 4-1 game, Princeton came on strong in the waning moments of the contest.
“We were defending on the back foot instead of the front foot, that is what is going to happen, you are going to get dinged,” said Tagliente, whose team improved to 4-0 in Ivy League play with the win over the Bears.
“We had a timeout and we talked a little about using the last 15 minutes and trying to get ready. I think we were just coasting at half a little bit but post-timeout, we had a lot of attack. I would like to see more drop but the goal was nice.”
It has been nice for Tagliente to see the production she is getting from senior star and co-captain Caro, who produced another hat trick in the win over Towson.
“I thought she had a good start; she has done that in a few games,” said Tagliente.
“She got on the board twice early and for her that is key. I think her confidence just rises from there. It is good to see her get three. She has earned it and deserved it. I think overall it was a great performance.”
McCarthy has been giving Princeton some great intensity. “Ryan just does all of the intangibles that you can’t really quantify,” said Tagliente.
“She plays with so much heart; she is a good player on top of it. She sees when the tempo and the energy isn’t there and she tries to change it and I think you saw that. In the last 15 minutes, probably 80 percent of the circle passes were traced to a pass from her or a defensive play from her.”
Princeton will be bringing plenty of energy to the field as it hosts Harvard (8-4 overall, 4-0 Ivy) on October 22 in a game that could decide the league title.
“The message we have been sending is clear, the gap isn’t closing, we are extending that gap and that is going to continue to be the focus,” said Tagliente, whose team has outscored its Ivy foes 18-1 in its first four league contests.
“I think the competitive level of these guys in practice and their demeanor has been great. Every Ivy game means so much and these guys have done a nice job to mentally stay in the moment and just play their game. They have done a great job of doing what we ask them to do and to trust in this process.”
McCarthy, for her part, is confident that the Tigers will keep in the moment as they battle the Crimson.
“We have been dominating most of the Ivy games,” said McCarthy. “It is just us and Harvard who are left undefeated so that is going to be a big game. It is just play our game; we know if we play our game then we can take control of the game and win.”