August 29, 2018

Coming Off of Run to NCAA Quarters Last Fall, PU Field Hockey Fired Up for 2018 Campaign

LAYING IT ON THE LINE: Princeton University field hockey goalie Grace Baylis makes a diving save in a game last fall. Junior star Baylis, an honorable mention All-Ivy League selection in 2017, has started every game the last two seasons. The 10th-ranked Tigers open their 2018 campaign by playing No. 2 North Carolina on August 31 and No. 14 Wake Forest on September 2, with both games taking place in Philadelphia. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Having finished last fall by winning six of its last seven games and advancing to the NCAA quarterfinals, the Princeton University field hockey team can’t wait to get the 2018 season underway.

“The preseason is going quickly; it is a blur,” said Princeton head coach Carla Tagliente, whose team ended last year with a 12-7 record and its 22nd Ivy League title in the last 24 years. “They see everyone else playing and they are just getting excited for next weekend.”

Princeton, which is ranked 10th nationally, faces two exciting challenges as it opens its 2018 campaign by playing No. 2 North Carolina on August 31 and No.

14 Wake Forest on September 2, with both games taking place in Philadelphia.

Tagliente believes her squad has what it takes to match up well against such high-powered foes.

“We are more skilled and have more depth and athleticism than we have had,” said Tagliente.

The Tigers boast plenty of skill at striker with the onetwo punch of senior Sophia Tornetta (4 goals, 3 assists in 2017) and sophomore Clara Roth (6 goals, 12 assists).

“Sophia is back for her senior year, and we have Clara Roth who did a nice job on the back half of the season for us; those two pair up nicely,” said Tagliente, noting that sophomore Emma Street (2 goals) and junior Taylor Nolan (2 goals) along with freshmen Ali McCarthy and Zoe Shephard will also see time up top for the Tigers.

Seniors Elise Wong (2 goals) and Nicole Catalino along with sophomores Juliana Tornetta (5 goals, 13 assists) and Mary Kate Neff (8 goals, 3 assists) give Princeton a nice quartet in the midfield.

“Elise and Nicole are central midfielders along with Juliana as well as Mary Kate Neff,” said Tagliente, who will also use freshman Hannah Davey and senior Jane Donio-Enscoe (2 goals, 1 assist) in the midfield. “We have got a deeper rotation through the middle; I think the four of them will all be on the field at times.”

Junior Maddie Bacskai (4 goals), the 2017 Ivy Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team All-American, will spearhead the Tiger back line.

“Maddie Bacskai is our center back. When you have a strong player as a central defender that can outlet and play through line with bigger balls to strikers but also has the ability to play small out of the back, it is a benefit,” said Tagliente, whose defensive unit will also include senior Annabeth Donovan (1 assist), junior Carlotta von Gierke (3 assists), and freshman Gabby Andretta. “Her biggest asset is her defensive ability. She is an incredible defender on the ball in terms of her tackling.”

Junior goalie Grace Baylis, who posted a goals against average of 1.93 with five shutouts in 2017, has emerged as a big asset for the Tigers.

“Grace has been a big voice on and off the field; she has has a lot of charisma and plays with her heart,” said Tagliente.

“She is really the backbone to our leadership. For a goalkeeper, she is not big, so she relies a lot on her speed and quickness, her ability to react, and her intellect. If she plays to her strengths, she will be great.”

In Tagliente’s view, Princeton has the potential to produce a great fall even if it hits some bumps in the road as it faces a number of top10 foes in the first month of the season.

“We need to stay in the present; this first stretch is always mentally and physically challenging,” said Tagliente.

“That is the key; getting through this stretch, growing, and getting better. If we went undefeated in this stretch here and went downhill at the end, that would be all for naught. The focus is on improving and growing to be at our best come November.”