CAT FIGHT: Princeton University field hockey player Beth Yeager, left, battles for the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Sunday, sophomore star Yeager picked up an assist as the seventh-ranked Tigers fell 3-2 in overtime to Lafayette. The loss to the Leopards moved Princeton to 5-4 overall. The Tigers, who had started the weekend by edging Penn 2-1 on Friday in their Ivy League opener, play at Yale on September 30 and at Connecticut on October 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
After it was over, the Lafayette College field hockey players bounded across Bedford Field to soak in the cheers of their supporters.
Meanwhile, the seventh-ranked Princeton University squad trudged back to their bench, heads down as they processed falling 3-2 in overtime to a Lafayette team that brought a 2-7 record into the contest.
While the weekend had started on a high note for the Tigers as they had edged Penn 2-1 on Friday in their Ivy League opener, Princeton head coach Carla Tagliente sensed trouble on the horizon.
“We had some carry over from Friday, we didn’t come out and play our best,” said Tagliente, whose club fell to 5-4 overall with the setback to the Leopards. “We weren’t connecting, there was little bit of low energy and not executing. I think that was a byproduct of Friday. We Band-Aided it up with a win. I think this was bound to happen at some point here.”
In the loss to Lafayette, the Tigers generated enough opportunities to win, outshooting the Leopards 21-7 in regulation. Princeton took a 1-0 lead late in the first quarter on a goal by Zoe Shepard and then forged ahead 2-1 with 2:47 left in regulation on a penalty stroke by Sam Davidson. Lafayette, though, responded, with a goal 15 seconds later to force overtime and got the game-winner 4:42 into the extra session.
“There was a flukey play, they threw an overhead,” said Tagliente, referring to Lafayette’s second tally. “Overtime is a crapshoot with seven versus seven. You can have a lucky break, or one person’s individual skill can make the difference, it is what it is. You don’t want to put it to that point where you are rolling the dice.”
Princeton had been on a roll coming into the contest, having won five of its last six games, including victories over No. 7 Syracuse (5-1 on September 9), No. 15 Rutgers (4-1 on September 11), and No. 3 and previously undefeated Maryland (4-3 in overtime on September 20) along with a 2-1 overtime loss to No. 1 and defending national champion Northwestern on September 18.
“I think we have shown lot of promise, a lot of growth,” said Tagliente. “We have played good hockey. I think today and Friday, we didn’t. I don’t know if it was the emotionality of the week before and it just bubbled up and here we are. We have kind of hit a little bit of a lull here.”
In getting on the winning track, Princeton had gotten contributions from some of its key veterans, including senior captains Sammy Popper and Hannah Davey along with junior goalie Robyn Thompson and sophomore standout Beth Yeager.
“I think Sammy has done a great job being a leader and scoring a lot of goals,” said Tagliente. “Robyn didn’t have her best game today but she has done a nice job in goal. Hannah has been very consistent. She is not going to put a lot of stats on the board, but she has been a very consistent leader. Beth has worked very hard — I think teams are defending her differently. She is putting everything she has into it.”
The focus going forward is getting back to basics and putting more balls in the back of the cage.
“We need to clean a lot up in terms of basic skills,” said Tagliente, whose team plays at Yale on September 30 and at Connecticut on October 2.
“We come into games, we are not quite sharp. We need to take advantage of opportunities that we have. We have been pretty good in the backs and the midfield. Our forwards are just lacking a bit in terms of finishing and executing up front.”