Although Princeton Field Hockey Starts 0-2, Freshman Yeager Makes Immediate Impact
FRESH APPROACH: Princeton University field hockey player Beth Yeager, center, races upfield past two North Carolina defenders last Friday in Princeton’s season opener. The 13th-ranked Tigers fell 4-1 to top-ranked UNC and then showed progress in losing 3-2 in overtime to No. 5 Louisville two days later. Freshman star Yeager notched her first college goals in the loss to the Cardinals, tallying both scores for Princeton in the defeat. In upcoming action, the Tigers host No. 12 Duke on September 11. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
It didn’t take long for Beth Yeager to make an impact for the Princeton University field hockey team last weekend in her collegiate debut.
After the highly touted striker generated five shots on goal but was held scoreless in a 4-1 loss to top-ranked and three-time defending national champion North Carolina on Friday, Yeager tallied both goals for No. 13 Princeton in a 3-2 overtime loss to fifth-ranked Louisville two days later.
While Yeager was disappointed by the defeat to the Cardinals, she saw positives coming out of the setback.
“We were excited to come out today and work on a few things,” said Yeager.
“Even though it was a disappointing result, there was a lot of progress that we made. It is a long season, there is lots to build on.”
Yeager was excited to notch her first collegiate goal, which came on a penalty stroke midway through the first period to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
“I was just aiming for the spot, trying to keep calm, not focus on all of the noise around me and do my best,” recalled Yeager, a 5’7 native of Greenwich, Conn., who has competed for the U.S. U-17 and U-19 outdoor junior teams.
“It is really exciting; I was just happy to contribute to the team in that moment and put it in.”
After Louisville responded with two straight goals, Yeager found the back of the cage again, converting a penalty corner with 30 seconds left in the half to knot the contest at 2-2.
“That is one of our key corners, I think we did a pretty good job of getting some good opportunities off of them,” said Yeager of the goal which was assisted on by Sam Davidson and Ali McCarthy. “It was good that we got one again.”
Although Princeton outshot the Cardinals 9-5 in the second half, it didn’t score again on the day and fell in OT when Louisville tallied 4:47 into the extra session to get the win.
“We had a lot of opportunities in the second half and some really, really close ones,” said Yeager.
“We definitely won the second half I think even though the score didn’t reflect that but that is always a good thing.”
Reflecting on the weekend overall, Yeager believes the Tigers made progress offensively.
“I think both games it is just about finishing it,” added Yeager.
“We are getting some good opportunities but we just need to put them in the back of the cage at the end of the day.”
Yeager relished getting the chance to make her college debut.
“It has been amazing,” said Yeager. “I think one of the biggest things is the speed of play, the game is so much faster. You don’t have time to think like you do in high school or club.”
Princeton head coach Carla Tagliente saw some good things from her attacking unit against Louisville.
“The offense is fine, you just hope we put a few more in,” said Tagliente, whose team outshot the Cardinals 17-11.
“We had a bunch of 3-versus-1s in the circle and some open shots and rebounds. In reality, statistically you would think we would win by two or three goals. It is fine, you are going to have games like that. You have to put them away and we didn’t.”
Tagliente was not surprised to see Yeager put two away against Louisville.
“Beth is just a dominant player and is clearly one of the best players in NCAA hockey right now,” asserted Tagliente.
“She brings a different presence on attack and on defense. She has had a great start so far and she is only going to go up from here.”
In assessing the weekend, Tagliente is looking for the Princeton defense to tighten up.
“We talked about our counter structure and how to close that off and just some soft turnovers out of our defensive end,” said Tagliente.
“I think we did better with the soft turnovers. We just need to be a lot stronger in the back in terms of tackling further outside the circle, just being able to double and come up with clean tackles. We are just a little off right now.”
With a young squad that has no seniors on its roster, Tagliente believes that the Tigers can have a strong season even through there will be bumps in the road along the way.
“I think the ceiling is high,” said Tagliente, whose squad is next in action when it hosts No. 12 Duke on September 11.
“With a young team and a tough schedule, you have to keep your head in the game and be able to grind out and grow through these difficult moments.”
Yeager, for her part, is confident that Princeton will grow into something special.
“The team has been really great and welcoming; it is a great community to be part of,” said Yeager. “We have a bright future ahead definitely.”