November 1, 2017

Thriving in Reserve Role for PU Field Hockey, PDS Alumna Brennan Primed for Final Push

SENIOR MOMENT: Princeton University field hockey senior defender Sarah Brennan heads upfield in action during her career for the Princeton University field hockey team. Last Saturday, former Princeton Day School standout Brennan was honored along with her classmates as Princeton hosted Cornell in its home finale and held its annual Senior Day celebration. The Tigers rolled to a 5-1 victory over Cornell, clinching a share of the Ivy League title and the league’s automatic berth to the upcoming NCAA tournament. The Tigers, now 10-6 overall and 6-0 Ivy, wrap up regular season play with a game at Penn on November 4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Although Sarah Brennan has been part of the supporting cast for the Princeton University field hockey team over the last four years, she has thrived in that role.

“I knew coming into a good program, it was going to be competitive for playing time,” said defender Brennan, a former Princeton Day School standout whose parents, Sean and Susan, are both Princeton alums.

“Everyone does whatever they can in practice to make the group better as a whole. I am a different player than I was four years ago, just playing at this level consistently every single day. When I decided that I wanted to play in college, my goal wasn’t necessarily to be a starter on whatever team I went to but to be the best athlete and the best player I could be. I went to a school like Princeton to make sure that I got to play at the highest level I possibly could. I have been able to do that here so I am definitely proud of what I have done in my four years here.”

As Brennan and her classmates were honored last Saturday when Princeton hosted Cornell for its home finale and held its annual Senior Day celebration, she reflected on how the team’s Class of 2018 kept on an even keel when head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn stepped down in 2016 to take a job with a sports performance company in Boston and was succeeded by Carla Tagliente.

“We all came together and really rallied behind the new leadership on the team,” said Brennan, whose fellow seniors are Danielle Duseau, Rachel Park, Lexi Quirk, and Ryan McCarthy. “We do a lot together on and off the field. They are definitely a good group of people and I have been lucky to have had four years with them.”

Brennan is thrilled to get the chance to spend more time on the field with her classmates as 14th-ranked Princeton rolled to a 5-1 victory over Cornell, clinching a share of the Ivy League title and the league’s automatic berth to the upcoming NCAA tournament. The Tigers will play at Penn on November 4 in the regular season finale before learning their NCAA assignment.

“It was really cool to know that our season is not going to end next weekend,” said the 5’5 Brennan, who has made 28 appearances for the Tigers in her career and helped Princeton advance to the NCAA semifinals last fall.

“What ended up being the critical game for us was the Harvard game. They played a great game against us but coming away with a win there (3-0 on October 21) was really what gave us that NCAA bid because if we had lost that game, there is no way we would have made the tournament.”

In Brennan’s view, Princeton, now 10-6 overall and 6-0 Ivy, is playing its best hockey as it heads into November.

“We are a team that definitely peaks toward the end of our season, especially because we have a lot of young players stepping up big this year,” said Brennan, who will be moving to Austin, Texas after graduation to start a job in sales with Dell EMC.

“It is really, really cool that we are peaking now. I don’t think we have ever been playing better hockey in terms of connecting our passes on the field and working off of each other and understanding how each other plays.”

As a result, Brennan is confident that the Tigers can hold their own, no matter who they face in the NCAA tourney.

“We are really well prepared for the tournament and whoever we get in the first round, we will give them a really good game,” said Brennan, noting that Princeton has run through a gauntlet of top-20 foes in its non-conference schedule this fall, including defending national champion Delaware along with such powers as North Carolina, Virginia, Penn State, Duke, Maryland, Syracuse, and UConn.

“Facing those teams like UConn, you have a lot of respect for your opponents. But you also know that when you get into the tournament, you could beat them because you have played them all before.”