November 18, 2015

With Battle-Tested Senior Sura Serving as Catalyst, PU Women’s Soccer Rolls Past BC in NCAA Opener

#19 rejoices after scoring a first half goal.

GETTING THEIR KICKS: Princeton University women’s soccer players Tyler Lussi, left, and Mimi Asom, center, celebrate with teammates after a goal last Saturday as Princeton defeated Boston College 4-2 in the first round of the NCAA tournament at Roberts Stadium. Junior Lussi and Freshman Asom each had two goals in the victory while senior co-captain and star defender Emily Sura contributed a career-high three assists. The Tigers, now 14-3-1 overall and 12-0-1 in their last 13 contests, will face No. 11 University of Southern California (14-5-2 overall) in the Round of 32 in Charlottesville, Va. on November 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In 2012, Emily Sura was part of the supporting cast as the Princeton University women’s soccer team competed in the NCAA tournament.

“Being there as a freshman, the leadership we had on the team was unbelievable,” said Sura, reflecting on the tourney run which saw Tigers top West Virginia 2-1 in the first round before falling 3-1 to Marquette in the Round of 32.

“It was unreal, the seniors carried us the whole way through; they had a class of nine unbelievable girls.”

Last Saturday as Princeton returned to the NCAA tourney by hosting Boston College in an opening round contest at Roberts Stadium, senior defender and co-captain Sura was looking to apply some of the lessons she soaked up in 2012.

“Just to be able to see that and how that had taken us so far, I was just trying to emulate that being a senior now,” said Sura, a native of Austin, Texas who earned second-team All-Ivy League honors this fall.

Sura provided some special senior leadership on Saturday, chipping in a career-high three assists as Princeton defeated Boston College 4-2. The Tigers, now 14-3-1 overall and 12-0-1 in their last 13 contests, will face No. 11 University of Southern California (14-5-2 overall) in the Round of 32 in Charlottesville, Va. on November 20.

Princeton rode the emotion of a raucous throng of 965 as it withstood some early pressure from BC to jump out to a 1-0 lead when Sura curled a cross into the box that freshman star Mimi Asom buried into the back of the net 22:36 into the contest.

“When we scored, I have never heard a roar like that,” said Sura. “I had goosebumps that whole game. There is no way that can’t have an impact on you. Being at home and just having this atmosphere is unbelievable. I think it helped us a ton.”

The Tigers gave their fans plenty to cheer about with a first half explosion that saw them jump out to a 3-1 lead by intermission as Asom scored a second tally 12 minutes after her initial score and junior star Tyler Lussi blasted in a volley with 3:29 left in the half.

“Coming off of Penn (a 0-0 tie on November 7), we didn’t get any goals, I think we were just really hungry to score some goals and it showed,” said Sura, who picked up an assist on Asom’s second goal.

“I think everything just came together. I think that is the best I have ever seen our attack play. Everything was perfect, that first half was amazing. It just all came
together, it was really, really exciting.”

In the second half, the Tigers didn’t waste time going on the attack as Lussi headed in a corner kick from Sura to put Princeton up 4-1 at the 49:20 mark.

“They are a good team and I think they came in here underestimating us,” said Sura.

“So at halftime, they were like shoot we are losing to Princeton and they definitely came out with some momentum as we expected. To score that fourth goal, I think that solidified what we were doing and took the wind out of their sails so they weren’t able to pick that momentum back up.”

Reflecting on a season which has seen the Tigers go 12-0-1 after a 2-3 start, Sura is thrilled with how Princeton has gotten it done.

“I can’t even put it into words, this team is amazing,” said Sura. “We are a small team so it is just like this family. We talked before the game and said let’s just have fun. This is just fun at this point, there is no pressure on us. To be able to be in that position and to come out and not only beat BC but to really put on a show for an audience, it was amazing.”

It was an amazing final home game for Sura, who was sidelined for most of her sophomore and junior seasons due to a hip injury.

“I am fine with going out this way, “ said a grinning Sura, “People dream to get the bid and to beat BC like this, it is crazy. It means so much.”

In the view of Princeton head coach Sean Driscoll, the fan support at Roberts Stadium on Saturday helped the Tigers come out on fire.

“I think it is always great to play at home, it is a testament to our body of work over the season that we were given the opportunity to host a game,” said Driscoll.

“It was a big, big deal for us. I was really excited about it and I think the crowd was a major influence on the game with all the teams that showed up, the student body and people from town, it was unbelievable.”

Princeton responded with some of its best work of the fall on the offensive end.

“The first 10 minutes, I thought we were very good and then they came back into the game,” said Driscoll.

“It was a back-and-forth first half and then I thought at the 20-minute mark, we kind of asserted ourselves and the kids played the best half of soccer we have had all season. To be in the position that we were at the end of the half was unbelievable.”

The one-two punch of Asom and Lussi put the Tigers in position for the victory.

“Going into this game it was about the forwards, their forwards are exceptional and our forwards are exceptional,” said Driscoll.

“We were just a little bit better today. Mimi was on fire. Tyler is a big-time player. She is relentless, her fitness level is off the charts and she is the most driven soccer player I have ever coached. She just wants to win more than anything, she does everything you can possibly ask of a player.”

Driscoll got all he could ask from Sura as well. “Emmie has been the heart and soul of the team this year,” said Driscoll.

“She came back from being out two years, she has really done a fantastic job. She is one of our captains and she just plays fearlessly. She played well at left back and then she had to go to center back towards the middle of the second half and she helped shut them down. She played really, really well.”

The Tigers shut down the high-flying Eagles for nearly the whole second half, finally yielding a goal with just 1:02 left in regulation.

“We found a way to get it done, a testament to the kids,” said Driscoll in assessing the defensive effort. “They worked exceptionally hard and played some really good stuff.”

Driscoll, for his part, believes that an exceptional level of team unity has been key to Princeton’s success this fall.

“It says a lot about the quality of our players, it says a lot more about the belief of our team,” said Driscoll.

“The chemistry is incredible. We are a team that is all about chemistry. We get along really well. They play for one another, they work exceptionally hard in training, they believe. When you believe and you have team chemistry, you could do anything.”

Reflecting on his first campaign at the helm of the Princeton program, Driscoll could not have imagined a better debut.

“It is incredible, this is a complete storybook season,” said Driscoll. “We have had a great last several weeks, in particular. We have played so well. We tied at Penn, which refocused us, and then come out here and play such a really inspired game. I could not have asked for anything better, it is just really amazing, to be honest.”

Driscoll believes that Princeton can keep its season going for a while. “What an opportunity, you go and play at the No. 1 soccer institution right now, the University of Virginia, and you play against the No. 11 team in the country in USC,” said Driscoll. “It is a dream. I will never count us out anywhere, they believe.”

Sura, for her part, believes that the Tigers will be tough to knock out.

“We just don’t want to lose, I think that is a lot of it,” said Sura. “We are willing to keep coming back to practice. We don’t want it to be all over and I think that is going to keep propelling us forward. I think we can go really far.”