November 8, 2017

Tiger Women’s Soccer Wins Ivy Title Outright, Will Host Monmouth in NCAA Tourney Opener

TOURNEY TIME: Princeton University women’s soccer player Vanessa Gregoire tracks the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, senior midfielder and co-captain Gregoire scored the lone goal as Princeton defeated Penn 1-0. The win by the Tigers and a 0-0 tie between Columbia and Harvard clinched the Ivy League title outright for Princeton as it finished the regular season at 14-2 overall and 6-1 Ivy. The Tigers will now compete in the NCAA tournament where they host Monmouth (15-3-2) in a first-round contest on November 10. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

When the Princeton University women’s soccer team lost 2-0 to Columbia is mid-October, it prompted some soul searching.

“The first day of practice was on Monday and we said there is only one word to describe and that is ‘respond,’” said Princeton head coach Sean Driscoll.

“We said we need to respond, react, and recommit to what we are doing and refocus.”

The Tigers responded with aplomb, routing Harvard 6-1 a week later in their next outing.

“They are well coached and it was a really good result for us to get,” said Driscoll, reflecting on the win over the Crimson.

“I said to the kids after the game, one of two things is going to happen after this Columbia game — you are either going to succumb to it or you are going to respond to it and do really well — and they did the latter. They have done everything you can possibly ask.”

Princeton went on to defeat Cornell 2-0 on October 28 and then edged Penn 1-0 last Saturday. The win over the Quakers combined with a 0-0 tie between Columbia and Harvard later in the day clinched the Ivy League title outright for Princeton as it finished the regular season at 14-2 overall and 6-1 Ivy.

“Winning in 2015 and then to come back again and do it a couple of years later, means everything,” said Driscoll, who guided the Tigers to the Ivy title and the second round of the NCAA tournament that year in his debut season at the helm of the program.

“It is what you are coaching for; you coach for championships and you coach to represent your school to the best of your ability and to keep the seniors’ seasons going as long as possible.”

Determined to extend the season, 13th-ranked Princeton hosts MAAC champion Monmouth (15-3-2) in an NCAA first-round contest on November 10 at 7 p.m. at Roberts Stadium, a rematch of an August 25 meeting between the New Jersey rivals that saw the Tigers cruise to a 3-0 victory.

“It is a tough draw; we beat them early in the year but they are very well coached,” said Driscoll, whose team would face the winner of the first round clash between Arkansas and N.C. State in the next round if it can defeat the Hawks.

“They won their league again and they they won the tournament in convincing fashion. They are a very, very good team. As we all know in sports, it is really hard to beat a team twice in a season.”

In order to top the Hawks in round two, the Tigers will have to keep showing the focus they have displayed in the wake of the Columbia loss.

“We need to match their desire to get revenge; we need to match their enthusiasm,” said Driscoll.

“I do expect an absolutely electric crowd that night for a home game in the NCAA tournament. If it is anything like it was when we played Boston College in 2015 (a 4-2 win in an NCAA opener), it will be an unbelievable advantage to us. Our job right now is to try to keep this season going as long as we can. We have had an unbelievably exciting, memorable, and magical year. It is really a very special group of players.”

Driscoll believes his team is poised to make more positive memories on Friday and beyond.

“They have done incredible work; statistically we are really good in so many areas, in terms of scoring goals and not allowing goals,” said Driscoll, whose team has outscored its foes 36-6 this fall and features three players with at least eight goals in sophomore Abby Given (9 goals, 6 assists), sophomore Courtney O’Brien (9 goals, 2 assists), and junior Mimi Asom (8 goals, 1 assist).

“We have 11 shutouts. They compete non-stop, they work hard in every training session, and they give me everything. They want to win, they want to do well. I wouldn’t put anything past them but we need to be supremely focused on Friday night, there cannot be a focus on anything other than Monmouth.”