Late Sunday night, the Princeton field hockey team drew Maryland for its first round match in the NCAA Tournament. The team, coaches included, watched the selection show together in Dillon Library over chocolate-chip cookies and milk.
The Tigers earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament with a 2-1 win in overtime against Penn on Saturday night. This is the Tigers’ 11th straight Ivy League championship and the 21st in the past 22 years.
Senior forward Maddie Copeland was named Offensive Player of the Year and freshman Sophia Tornetta was awarded Rookie of the Year. After Saturday’s victory, Kristen Holmes-Winn, who has been head coach for the last 11 Ivy titles, was named the league’s Coach of the Year.
Before the selection show began on Sunday night, the team entered into TTM: “Turbo Tournament Mode.” Continuing a tradition that began in 2009, the team watched a video that laid out the rules of TTM. First, your nails must be painted orange and black at all times. Second, you must wear Princeton field hockey clothes. Third, keep your muscles moving at all times. Fourth, “cafturate” (a portmanteau of caffeine and hydrate). And the list goes on.
Holmes-Winn said that while TTM is sometimes silly, it carries with it a significant sense of legacy and tradition on the team. “It helps [the women] connect to the past in a powerful way,” Holmes-Winn said. Though the team has made it to the NCAA tournament 11 years in a row, TTM aims to remind the team that it is tough to get into the tournament and celebrate this accomplishment, she said.
According to Holmes-Winn, the Princeton team’s experience showed in when it won the Ivy’s postseason berth in overtime on the last day of the season. As the level of play turned up a notch, she said, “You could just feel we were going to win then.”
Senior Maddie Copeland, who ranks fifth in the country in goals per game (1.00), scored early on in the Penn game, but the Tigers did not score again until overtime, when Ryan McCarthy ’18 put Princeton over the top. “I don’t think we played our best on Saturday. We have to give credit to Penn for disrupting our usual patterns,” Holmes-Winn said. Still, she said that her team managed the critical moments of the game really well.
Senior Anya Gersoff, who earned recognition as an honorable mention selection, said that the though Princeton team has always been a force in the Ivy League, she is particularly excited about the future for this young team. “A lot of the freshmen play starting and key roles. Our starting center-back and our two center-mids are all freshmen, and we have freshmen in the forward line as well,” Gersoff said.
Holmes-Winn attributes the team’s continued Ivy League dominance to talent and work ethic, but also to a consistent philosophy that underscores everything the team does. “Culture and what we value hasn’t changed,” she said. The team’s philosophy is focused on four central values: excellence, passion, authenticity, and “one.”
“‘One’ signifies the idea that we’re one team. The individual fades away,” Holmes-Winn said.
These values give the Tigers an edge over their competition in tough moments in games, but Holmes-Winn emphasized that the values are not just limited to the field — they help shape the lives of the women every day.
In fact, Holmes-Winn has created Actus, an app that, in part, documents and tracks these values.
The app measures mental and physical readiness, using inputs like sleep, food and water intake, and daily training energy, Holmes-Winn said.
The app also has a mental component, which helps the women measure how aligned their behaviors are with what they value. “It keeps what’s important in front of us,” she said.
“If you don’t understand the factors that impact your performance, you’re basically trying to hit a bulls-eye with a blindfold on,” Holmes-Winn said.
Princeton will have to channel all their mental and physical preparedness when they face No. 7 Maryland at Syracuse on Saturday. Fortunately, the Tigers have a lot of NCAA experience, and a thorough philosophy, to back them up.