It is only week two, but the biggest game of the field hockey team’s entire season may be this Saturday.
“The team is very excited for the upcoming game,” midfielder Trish Bissett ’07 said. “We really feel that this is a time to prove ourselves.”
The Elis (1-1) host Princeton (0-2) this Saturday at Johnson Field. The Tigers are the perennial Ivy League powerhouse, having gone undefeated in the League for the past four seasons, and present the biggest challenge to the Eli goal of an Ivy League Championship.
“Historically they are the best team in the league,” midfielder Meredith Hudson ’05 said. “They are fast, they are threatening everywhere on the field, and they have some real experienced players.”
However, the gap between the Tigers and the rest of the pack has dwindled over the past few years. Last year, Princeton, Harvard and Yale all finished 12-6 overall.
In 2002, the Tigers blanked the Bulldogs 7-0 in dominant fashion. Last year, the tally was 5-4, and Princeton needed an overtime period to wrap up the victory. The four goals were the most the Tigers had allowed from an Ivy League opponent since 1988 and the second most goals they allowed in any game last year.
This year has also seen the Tigers get off to an uncharacteristically slow start. Last year, Princeton began in a commanding manner, outscoring opponents 8-2 in its first two victories. The Tigers have begun their 2004 season 0-2, with only one goal scored in two losses to Northeastern University and Delaware University.
Several Elis believe that Princeton may be having some trouble adjusting this season.
“They have a strong midfield, but a bunch of their strong players actually graduated last year so we’re expecting for this to be their transition year,” Bissett said.
That’s the good news for the Elis.
The bad news is that the Tigers have eight returning seniors, including two-time first-team All-American Natalie Martirosian in the midfield. Princeton also features the 2003 Ivy League Rookie of the Year Allison Nemeth in goal and a defense composed of three seniors who are at least two-year starters.
And while the Tigers have lost their first two bouts, they have dominated game play. Princeton outshot Northeastern and Delaware by a combined tally of 27-16 and nearly tripled their opponents’ penalty corner opportunities, 17-6.
Needless to say, the Tigers will be hungry for a win. And an Ivy League opponent would make the victory all the better.
“Princeton has been the defending Ivy League champions for ten years, they’re looking to defend their crown and it’s our goal to win the Ivy League,” midfielder Grace Morris ’06 said. “They’re going to be out to get their first win of the season, and we’re .500 and would like to start a win streak. It’s going to be a great game.”
But despite the importance of this weekend’s match-up and the caliber of the Princeton team, the Bulldogs aim to stick to the plan and not get flustered over their opponent.
“We are preparing just like we would for any other game,” Hudson said. “Of course we are extra excited to play Princeton; it’s always a huge game. But we are trying to take one practice at a time and just prepare ourselves the best way we can.”