Princeton men’s soccer entered 2010 expecting to contend for the Ivy League title, but six games into the season, the team found itself in a deep hole. The Tigers started the year 1–3–1 and trailed Richmond at halftime, 1–0, in their opening game at the Princeton Invitational in late September.
“Trailing 1–0 at the half, the guys seemed to say to themselves, ‘It’s now or never,’ ” head coach Jim Barlow ’91 said. “They came out flying in that second half, scored three goals, and really took off from there.”
Beginning with that 3–1 win over Richmond, the Tigers (13–3–1 overall, 7–0 Ivy League) won 12 consecutive contests, the longest single-season winning streak in team history. A 2–1 victory against No. 13 Penn at Roberts Stadium Nov. 6 gave the 11th-ranked Tigers a share of their first Ivy League championship since 2001, along with an automatic berth to the NCAA Championships. By beating Yale a week later, Princeton won the championship outright and completed the program’s first perfect Ivy season.
In the game against Penn, the Tigers controlled the ball from the start and showed why they were the pregame favorites. Princeton scored the first goal on a header from defender Benjamin Burton ’11 in the 32nd minute off a perfect corner kick from midfielder Teddy Schneider ’11.
Though Penn played a more fiery second half, outshooting Princeton 15–4, Tigers forward Antoine Hoppenot ’12 gave his team a 2–0 lead halfway through the period, receiving the ball at the edge of the 18-yard box and beating three Penn defenders before shooting past Penn’s goaltender. The Quakers were able to tack on a late goal to narrow the final score to 2–1.
On Nov. 13, the Tigers again won 2–1, at Yale. Burton put the Tigers on the board in the first half, and freshman midfielder Patrick O’Neill scored his second goal of the season to break a 1–1 tie and lead the team to victory.
Princeton’s success has been due largely to its potent offense, which ranked 10th in the nation in goals per game during the regular season. Two All-Ivy standouts — Hoppenot, who topped the league with eight goals and 21 points, and midfielder Josh Walburn ’11, whose 19 points trailed only Hoppenot — led the Tigers, but the offense received healthy contributions from the entire lineup, with five other starters contributing three or more goals apiece.
“Early in the year, we were somewhat one-dimensional in our attack — get the ball to Antoine Hoppenot and let him go,” Barlow said. “We now can score in many different ways.” The Tigers’ goals have come in many contexts — on counterattacks, in the regular buildup of an offensive attack, and on restarts following penalties and corner kicks. The team’s success, Barlow added, “has been fueled by how well we defend.”