The Yale field hockey team celebrates the program’s 45th anniversary this year. Over the course of its relatively short history, the improving team has owned one, notorious streak: a losing run against Princeton that now spans 41 years, after another defeat at the hands of the Tigers this weekend.
Although the length of the Elis’ (5–4, 0–2 Ivy) losing streak is shocking, it should not surprise anyone who has followed Ivy League field hockey and the Tigers’ extended display of dominance, which includes 21 of the last 23 Ivy titles. Through seven head coaches, Princeton (5–5, 2–0) has managed sustained success, owning an all-time record of 495–261–38. Although Yale fell to the Tigers on Friday in the final minutes of play, the Bulldogs’ close battle against a historically dominant team is a promising sign for the rest of the season.
“We’re in a great place this season,” forward Brooke Reese ’19 said. “We know that we can compete with top-ranked teams. Our play against Princeton, as well as Liberty and Harvard, showed that — even if the results didn’t fall our way every time.”
Field hockey was one the original women’s varsity sports introduced at Princeton. The program is just one year older than the Bulldogs’, and played its first game in the fall of 1971 against Temple. Three of the Tigers’ first four head coaches owned winning all-time records. However, the program’s true renaissance came under Beth Bozman, who led the team from 1988 to 2002. Under Bozman, the team’s record, spanning 15 years, was 188–73–6, the best percentage of any coach to date, with the exception of Penny Hinckley, who coached between 1974 and 1976.
The Tigers were never weak, winning back-to-back Ivy League championships in 1981 and 1982, but Princeton’s third Ivy title required a nine-year wait. Bozman’s first title-winning team was in 1991, her fourth season with the Tigers. The wait was well worth it — under Bozman’s leadership, Princeton established its place as the Ivy League field hockey titan: a title it has never truly relinquished.
Two seasons after the 1991 win — in 1994 — the Tigers were back on top. The 1994 Ivy title was the first in a consecutive chain of ten. Princeton finished at the top through 2003 and gained a reputation for utter dominance; the rest of the Ancient Eight merely played for second place.
In 10 years at the top, the Tigers led the charge in field hockey’s development, as well as the Ivy League’s performance and expectations. In 1996, Princeton became the first Ivy school to advance to the NCAA championship round. For her coaching, Bozman was named that year’s National Field Hockey Coaches Association Coach of the Year: an honor that would also be bestowed on her successor, Kristen Holmes-Winn.
Holmes-Winn took over for the Tigers in 2003 to begin a 14-season coaching career. In 2004, her second season, Penn and Harvard snapped the Tigers’ decade-long reign to share the Ivy title.
The Tigers could not be kept from the top for long. The next year they captured the Ivy championship again, this time holding onto it for eleven consecutive seasons through 2015.
Their second streak was just as dominant as the first. In 2012, No. 2 Princeton upset No. 1 North Carolina to capture the first NCAA championship title for both the program and the Ivy League. The NFHCA, as it did the last time the Tigers made national strides, named Holmes-Winn coach of the year.
Last year, in current Tigers head coach Carla Tagliente’s first season at the helm, Harvard broke Princeton’s streak again, becoming Ivy League champion. The Crimson victory lowered the Tigers’ share of the Ivy championship to “just” 21 in the past 23 years, though the Tigers still lead the Harvard-Princeton series 39–6–2. This season, both the Crimson and the Tigers are undefeated in Ivy play thus far, but No. 14 Harvard is ranked two spots ahead of No. 16 Princeton.
With 29 years, between Bozman and Holmes-Winn, the Tigers have benefitted from strong and consistent coaching. The Tigers’ lead their series with each of the other Ivies by astonishing amounts: 31–8–1 against Brown, 19–1–0 against Columbia, 29–7–3 against Cornell, 28–7–2 against Dartmouth, and 27–15–3 against Penn.
In transition, Princeton appears slightly less dominant, but the team’s history leaves no doubt that Yale’s drought is less reflective of the Bulldogs’ program development, and more representative of the powerhouse that the Tigers have been for the last three decades: longer than some Ivy field hockey programs have been in existence.
“We use it as motivation,” forward Carol Middough ’18 said. “Everyone wants to be a part of the team that breaks the streak.”
Yale will get a chance to end the drought against Princeton again next season, when the Elis take on the Tigers at Johnson Field.
Angela Xiao | firstname.lastname@example.org