After 18 months of uncertainty, perhaps no team’s success burned brighter than Princeton football’s — literally, given the season-ending Big Three bonfire that splashed an orange glow across Nassau Hall. The Tigers, co-champions of the Ivy League, were masters of late-game dramatics, from a fourth-quarter comeback against Monmouth to a second-half surge against Yale to their wild 18-16 win in the fifth overtime against Harvard in late October, as part of a 9-1 season.
The time off during the pandemic “made me realize how much we truly missed it and missed each other and missed the relationships,” said head coach Bob Surace ’90. “To celebrate with everyone is just a really great feeling.”
For the seniors, who played on one of the greatest teams in recent memory in 2018, this championship bookended their time at the University with a second Ivy title. Surace recognized the unique experience of the team’s upperclassmen, saying he believed he had a duty to pay off their hard work because “they sacrificed so much; there’s a responsibility to make sure that experience goes well.”
Meanwhile, men’s soccer — led by Kevin O’Toole ’22, who was named offensive player of the year for a second time, Ivy coach of the year Jim Barlow ’91, and eight additional All-Ivy selections — captured the Ivy title, finishing a perfect 7-0-0 in the Ivy League. Possessing a flair for the dramatic all year long, the Tigers won on late-game goals in the 85th minute against Penn and in overtime against Yale to clinch the conference title, though their magic ran out in a 1-0 loss to St. John’s in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.
Women’s soccer also had a strong showing this fall, finishing 15-3-1 and coming up just short of an Ivy title of its own, losing 3-1 at Brown to deny Princeton its 11th championship. Headlined by seven All-Ivy choices and anchored by a defense with first-team All-Ivy defenders Lucy Rickerson ’22 and Madison Curry ’23, and first-team All-Ivy goalkeeper Grace Barbara ’22, Princeton’s balanced attack led the Tigers to the NCAA tournament, where, after being selected with an at-large bid, a gut-wrenching 3-2 double-overtime loss to No. 8 Texas Christian University sent them home in the second round.
Led by freshman Beth Yeager, field hockey came up one win shy of an Ivy League title, finishing second to Harvard. Yeager, second in the league in goals with 16 and first in points per game, was named both Ivy League rookie of the year and offensive player of the year. Supplemented by other offensive stars Sammy Popper ’23 and Ali McCarthy ’23, the Tigers’ supercharged offense led the league in goals with 51, powering its 6-1 run through the Ivy League. In a matchup of the Ivy League’s best offense in Princeton and best defense in Harvard, which conceded only 10 goals all season long, the Tigers came razor close to earning their 27th banner. Princeton lost in a penalty shootout after 80 minutes of game time. Ultimately victory was not to be, though with the preponderance of underclassmen leading the team, the future looks bright.
Men’s cross country, led by Olympian steeplechaser Edward Trippas ’22, contributed a banner of its own to a championship-packed fall for the Tigers, winning its 22nd Ivy League title and finishing first in its NCAA regional, eventually coming in 23rd at the NCAA national championships. Trippas and senior Kevin Berry finished in the top three in the Ivy League championship, with both runners setting personal records. Women’s cross country bowed out at the regionals, placing fourth, though rookie runner Fiona Max ’24 qualified for the individual championship, finishing among the top 100 runners in the nation.
Women’s volleyball also had a strong season, finishing 16-6 and second to Brown in the Ivy League. Like field hockey, the team is dominated by underclassmen, who hope to lead the Tigers to the top of the conference in years to come.
In the pool, men’s water polo came from three goals down to win its sixth NWPC championship, defeating St. Francis-Brooklyn 9-6 to add a conference championship to a dominant 23-7 regular season. The Tigers defeated Fordham in the first round of the NCAA tournament, setting a program record for wins in a season with 26, before ultimately losing in the second round against No. 1 UCLA on Dec. 2. It was the last game of a memorable fall for Princeton athletics, raising four banners into the rafters in a successful return from the COVID hiatus.