Princeton’s field hockey team celebrated its NCAA win against No. 1 North Carolina Nov. 18.
Princeton’s field hockey team celebrated its NCAA win against No. 1 North Carolina Nov. 18.
PHOTO: RICK VOIGHT

Before 2012, the field hockey team had a history of November heartbreak, reaching 11 quarterfinals, five semifinals, and two championship games — but never winning the big one.

All that changed Nov. 18. Playing against No. 1 North Carolina for the NCAA title in Norfolk, Va., the Tigers overcame a pair of one-goal deficits and took a 3–2 lead on a penalty stroke by Amanda Bird ’14. For 10 agonizing minutes, they defended wave after wave of attacks until the long-awaited title was theirs.

“I went nuts. I just ran to my teammates to hug them and celebrate with them,” star striker Kat Sharkey ’13 said. “This is such an amazing feeling, to win the national championship with my best friends.”

The Ivy League may never again see a pair of classmates as accomplished as Sharkey and midfielder Katie Reinprecht ’13, who became just the second and third players ever to be named first-team All-Ivy for four consecutive seasons. Reinprecht also was named field hockey’s 2012 Honda Sports Award winner, given annually to the nation’s top player.

Over the last two decades, Princeton has won 18 of the last 19 conference titles. This year, the Tigers took that hegemony to another level, quickly rising to a program-best No. 2 national ranking. Princeton entered tournament play with only one loss for the first time in team history.