Princeton’s field hockey team has won the Ivy League championship for the last seven years, but never has earned an NCAA title. That may be about to change.
With four star players returning to the team after spending a year with the U.S. national team — including a pair of sisters who played in the Olympics — the deck will be stacked against Princeton’s opponents.
“I think this team has enormous potential,” said head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn, who went to four Final Four tournaments as a player and assistant coach at Iowa before joining Princeton in 2003. “We still don’t have everything in place yet, personnel-wise, but we’re getting closer.”
The Tigers opened their season with a 6–0 record, including impressive victories over Duke and Wake Forest, and climbed to No. 2 in the national polls as of Sept. 14, their highest ranking ever.
Princeton field hockey had the chance to break through in 2009, when a 16-3 season ended with a semifinal loss to top-ranked Maryland, and in 2010, when the team fell in the quarterfinals. Last fall, led by younger players such as Sydney Kirby ’15, Allison Evans ’15, and Amanda Bird ’14, the Tigers ended up pulling off an Ivy League title.
Now that Olympians Katie Reinprecht ’13 and Julia Reinprecht ’14 are back, along with Michelle Cesan ’14 and Kathleen Sharkey ’13 — four of the six college players in the nation to spend last year with the U.S. national team — Princeton boasts one of the deepest offenses of any team. Seven Tigers have scored nine or more goals in a season. “We have really good threats on the attacking side,” Katie Reinprecht said.
The international veterans bring back not just their on-field talents, but lessons learned from playing with the nation’s best, such as staying poised in close games. Cesan, who was an Olympic alternate, led the team out of an overtime contest Sept. 6 at eighth-ranked Penn State with a sudden-death goal. Sharkey broke Princeton’s career record of 71 goals, held by Ilvy Friebe ’03 and Kirsty Hale ’99, in the season opener at Duke Aug. 31.
A revamped roster isn’t the only change from last year’s 10-8 season. Princeton’s home games have moved out of the multipurpose Class of 1952 Stadium and onto the new Bedford Field, a venue dedicated solely to field hockey that has a smoother surface. “We have a pretty tough schedule this year, which is great to get that experience under our belt,” Katie Reinprecht said. “I really think we can compete with anyone.”