Princeton reaches the national final but falls to undefeated North Carolina

Krista Hoffman ’20 competes for the ball in the national final.
Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images
Princeton field hockey went to the NCAA championship game looking for another huge upset, but defending-champion North Carolina denied the ninth-ranked Tigers, winning 6-1 Nov. 24. The Tar Heels’ victory was their 46th in a row — spanning two full seasons — and brought Princeton’s 13-game winning streak to an end.

Princeton had knocked off fourth-ranked Virginia in the semifinals with a 2–1 comeback win, and the Tigers were on the attack early and often against North Carolina, putting up an early 1–0 lead.

“We were confident going into the weekend because we like the position of the underdog,” said striker Clara Roth ’21, who stole the ball and passed to striker Emma Street ’21 to score the first goal of the game.

The Tigers’ momentum stalled when midfielder Julianna Tornetta ’21, the team’s assists leader, left the game due to injury. North Carolina scored two unanswered goals in the second quarter and kept building its lead after halftime while keeping Princeton’s offense in check.

Even with the disappointing finish, the 2019 season was a remarkable one for the Tigers, who had a perfect 7-0 record in Ivy League play, including a pivotal 3-2 win at Harvard. Four Princeton players earned first-team All-Ivy honors: Roth, Tornetta, Hannah Davey ’22, and Sammy Popper ’23. 

Princeton has been a formidable postseason team in Carla Tagliente’s four years as coach, reaching the Final Four three times. The Tigers started this year’s tournament with a 5-1 victory against Syracuse Nov. 15, led by two-goal performances by Davey and Roth. Two days later, Princeton pulled off a 2-0 win against No. 2-seed UConn in the quarterfinals, setting up the Final Four match with Virginia. 

Throughout the postseason, the Tigers were motivated by the senior class, which won 55 games in its four years at Princeton. “We didn’t want to see the seniors go, so we went into each game in the championship season with the mentality that we wanted to play just one more game together,” Roth said, “and that’s what we did.”