From backhand shots to student cheers, a day in the life of Princeton’s fall teams

Maddie Copeland ’16, right, celebrates with Sydney Kirby ’15.
Maddie Copeland ’16, right, celebrates with Sydney Kirby ’15.
Beverly Schaefer

The Ivy League’s fall schedule tends to group home games, which is a boon for Tiger fans in the mood for a double-header (or triple-header). On Nov. 8, PAW covered the five Ivy games on campus.

FIELD HOCKEY

Senior Day for Princeton field hockey begins just before noon at Bedford Field, where members of the Class of 2015 and their parents walk between parallel columns of teammates. The younger players raise their sticks high, like swords at a military wedding.

In most years, the seniors enter their last home game knowing that there’s more hockey to come: The Tigers haven’t missed the NCAA postseason since 2003. But on this day, Princeton needs a win against Penn — and a loss by Columbia — to keep its playoff hopes alive. 

After a back-and-forth opening period, Princeton scores shortly after halftime to inch ahead, 3–2. The Quakers mount a comeback, tying the game on a penalty stroke. Penn looks poised to fire another shot on goal when midfielder Cat Caro ’17 steps in to steal the ball, starting a lighting-fast counterattack. Stephanie Goldberg ’15 feeds a long pass to Maddie Copeland ’16, alone near the goal, and Copeland spins to her backhand side to launch a perfect shot over the goalie’s shoulder. 

“It was just a sensational shot,” coach Kristen Holmes-Winn says. “That’s the beauty of the game right there.”

Nine minutes later, the crowd counts down the final seconds of a 4–3 Princeton win, and the public-address announcer follows with more good news: Harvard has defeated Columbia, 4–1. The Tigers are NCAA Tournament-bound.

WOMEN’S SOCCER

Women’s soccer has slim hopes for an Ivy title when it kicks off its afternoon game against Penn, but before the end of the first half, Harvard clinches the championship in Cambridge. Still, the Tigers have plenty to play for in what will be the final game for longtime coach Julie Shackford. 

Forward Tyler Lussi ’17 illustrates the best of the relentless, attacking soccer that Shackford has been teaching for the last 20 seasons. Lussi spends much of the game deep in the Quakers’ defensive zone, pressing even the slightest advantage, frustrating a string of defenders, and once colliding mid-air with Penn goalie Kalijah Terilli. 

With Princeton trailing 2–0, Lussi opens the second period with a cross to Lauren Lazo ’15, who scores her 28th and final goal as a Tiger. After another 30 minutes, the Tigers break through again as Beth Stella ’18 gets the crowd roaring with a goal from 15 yards out. 

Not content to play for overtime, the Tigers push forward on a corner kick with two minutes left. The play allows Penn’s Clara Midgley to break free in the opposite direction, and she finds the net for a game-winning goal. 

“Obviously it’s disappointing — you’d like to go out with a win,” Shackford says. “But I told the girls that I still think they played great soccer.”

Women’s soccer has slim hopes for an Ivy title when it kicks off its afternoon game against Penn, but before the end of the first half, Harvard clinches the championship in Cambridge. Still, the Tigers have plenty to play for in what will be the final game for longtime coach Julie Shackford. 

Forward Tyler Lussi ’17 illustrates the best of the relentless, attacking soccer that Shackford has been teaching for the last 20 seasons. Lussi spends much of the game deep in the Quakers’ defensive zone, pressing even the slightest advantage, frustrating a string of defenders, and once colliding mid-air with Penn goalie Kalijah Terilli. 

With Princeton trailing 2–0, Lussi opens the second period with a cross to Lauren Lazo ’15, who scores her 28th and final goal as a Tiger. After another 30 minutes, the Tigers break through again as Beth Stella ’18 gets the crowd roaring with a goal from 15 yards out. 

Not content to play for overtime, the Tigers push forward on a corner kick with two minutes left. The play allows Penn’s Clara Midgley to break free in the opposite direction, and she finds the net for a game-winning goal. 

“Obviously it’s disappointing — you’d like to go out with a win,” Shackford says. “But I told the girls that I still think they played great soccer.”

Dorian Williams ’17 races down the sideline as Penn fans look on.
Dorian Williams ’17 races down the sideline as Penn fans look on.
Beverly Schaefer

FOOTBALL

For football teams facing Princeton this year, the game plan has been fairly consistent: Test the Tigers’ pass defense. Opposing quarterbacks averaged 45 pass attempts in the first eight games, up from 37 a year ago, and for good reason. The Tigers rank last among Ivy teams in pass defense.

“It’s kind of an insult, the fact that they keep trying to expose one [part] of our defense,” free safety Dorian Williams ’17 says. “I think it motivates us.”

After a shaky start against Penn, Princeton’s defense shows signs of progress, making two interceptions — one by Williams, the other by Matt Arends ’16 — and stopping key second-half drives in a 22–17 win.

Williams also makes the game’s most exciting play in the opening quarter when he scoops up a Penn fumble near the 10-yard line and weaves through the chasing Quakers for 81 yards before being caught from behind. 

“He was a terrific running back in high school,” coach Bob Surace ’90 says after the game.

“That [experience] kind of took over,” Williams says, laughing as his teammates tease him for running out of steam. “And at the end, it kind of fell off.”

WOMEN’S VOLLEYBALL

Women’s volleyball’s first meeting with Dartmouth this year was in the middle of a three-match Ivy losing streak — a low moment for a Tiger team that had opened the league season 4–0. But if Princeton harbors any residual doubt from that five-set heartbreaker in Hanover, it has disappeared by the end of a well-played opening set in the rematch, which the Tigers win 25–18. 

Princeton remains upbeat in the second, coming from behind to win 25–19. Late in the third, the Tigers are a point away from dropping the set, but a Brittany Ptak ’17 kill and a Kendall Peterkin ’16 block flip the momentum and seal the sweep. At 8–4 in Ivy matches, Princeton heads into its final weekend with an outside chance to win the league.

Women’s volleyball’s first meeting with Dartmouth this year was in the middle of a three-match Ivy losing streak — a low moment for a Tiger team that had opened the league season 4–0. But if Princeton harbors any residual doubt from that five-set heartbreaker in Hanover, it has disappeared by the end of a well-played opening set in the rematch, which the Tigers win 25–18. 

Princeton remains upbeat in the second, coming from behind to win 25–19. Late in the third, the Tigers are a point away from dropping the set, but a Brittany Ptak ’17 kill and a Kendall Peterkin ’16 block flip the momentum and seal the sweep. At 8–4 in Ivy matches, Princeton heads into its final weekend with an outside chance to win the league.

Cameron Porter ’15
Cameron Porter ’15
Beverly Schaefer

MEN’S SOCCER

When Princeton built Roberts Stadium for the Tiger soccer teams, it included bleachers behind both goals, to the delight of student fans — and the chagrin of opposing goalkeepers. The current crop of fans at the men’s games calls itself “the firm” and swaps ends at halftime to pester the goalie at close range throughout the game. The students even sing songs reminiscent of those heard at English Premier League tilts. A favorite tune at the Penn game: “You all go to a lesser Ivy school,” sung to the tune of “Yellow Submarine.”

The 10–3–3 Tigers have given their supporters much to cheer about this year, and the Penn game follows that pattern. Cameron Porter ’15, the Ivy’s top scorer for the second straight season, nets the contest’s first goal in the seventh minute and assists on a Brendan McSherry ’16 goal nine minutes later. At halftime, Princeton leads 3-2, and the tally holds through an active but scoreless second period.

Afterward, a handful of players jog toward “the firm” for high-fives and hugs, but Porter walks across the field to his own cheering section, including a young niece who hands him two colorful paintings on construction paper. 

“She said I only get one if I score,” he says with a smile. “This one’s for Yale. I can’t hang it up unless I score next week.”

Editor’s note: Porter did score against Yale Nov. 15, netting Princeton’s only goal in a 1-0 win that clinched a share of the Ivy League championship.