Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 47
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
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BATTLE CRY: Princeton University women’s soccer head coach Julie Shackford makes a point in a game earlier this season. Urging her players to fight harder this season, Shackford saw her team battle its way to a tie for the Ivy League title and a berth in the NCAA tournament. Last Friday, the Tigers fell 2-1 to West Virginia in the first round of the NCAA tourney to end with a 12-3-2 record.

PU Women’s Soccer Fights to the End as It Loses to West Virginia in NCAAs

Bill Alden

For the Princeton University women’s soccer team, its long wait was finally over.

After not having been to the NCAA tournament since its storied Final Four run in 2004, Princeton was back in the big dance last weekend.

The Ivy League co-champions were sent to Charlottesville, Va. where they faced West Virginia last Friday night with the winner slated to advance to the second round on Sunday.

Tiger head coach Julie Shackford said her players were determined to enjoy the moment.

“The kids had a good time,” said Shackford. “They were so happy to get a chance to play in the tournament. They weren’t nervous.”

That joy, though, turned to sadness by the end of the evening as Princeton fell 2-1 to West Virginia.

The Mountaineers jumped out to an early lead when they scored on a corner kick 10 minutes into the contest. Minutes after Princeton goalie Aly Pont left the game with a head injury, West Virginia doubled its lead with a goal in the 25th minute.

Showing the resolve that marked its superb season, Princeton kept scrapping. The Tigers broke through with 1:32 left in the game when senior star Jen Om found the back of the net as she volleyed home a loose ball off a corner kick. Princeton, though, couldn’t get the equalizer as it was eliminated.

While Shackford would have preferred a different result, she had no qualms with her team’s performance on the big stage.

“I think it is unfortunate; we had the ball for most of the first 20 minutes and both of their goals came on counters,” said Shackford, whose team ended the fall with a final record of 12-3-2.

“We played well but they were a fast, athletic team. This team just doesn’t give up. The UVa coaches came up to me and said how well we knocked the ball around.”

When the season started, Shackford wasn’t sure that her team would be around for the post-season.

“The team exceeded expectations,” said Shackford, noting that she had told people in the preseason that she was “clueless” when asked her team’s prospects this fall.

“They had intensity, passion, and will. It came from the senior class; it was their last chance to get to NCAAs and they were thrilled to go. I enjoyed every minute of the season. They were a real team and the seniors should cherish the experience.”

The Princeton senior class featured Sarah Peteraf, Taylor Numann, and Lisa Chinn together with Om. All four of them earned All-Ivy recognition with Peteraf, Numann, and Chinn garnering first-team honors and Om getting named to the second team.

In Shackford’s view, her returning players will benefit from going on the NCAA ride along with their senior teammates.

“It is great for them to go through the preparation and play against faster, more athletic teams,” said Shackford, whose returning stars include first-team All-Ivy goalie Pont and Ivy honorable mention choice Melissa Seitz. “It’s another level.”

Shackford believes the program is ready to remain at a high level. “I am more confident about the future with this group,” said Shackford, who now has a 153-76-16 record in her 14-season tenure at Princeton.

“We did a lot of work on leadership and team culture over the last three years, trying to get them to be more competitive. The 2004 team had so many strong leaders and we didn’t develop enough leaders in the succeeding classes.”

Fortunately for Princeton, this year’s seniors developed into leaders just in time to help the Tigers make it back to NCAA tourney competition.

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