After slipping out of contention for a second consecutive Ivy League title, Princeton football will have plenty of work ahead to prove that the end of the 2014 season was not the end of an era.
Two bonfires, an Ivy League championship, two Ivy League Player of the Year awards, two NFL draft picks, and an 18-12 combined record is an impressive run for three seasons. But with the Tigers’ top two starting quarterbacks graduating in the spring, the program will be tested as it searches for players to follow in the footsteps of the senior class, which played its final game in Saturday’s 41-10 loss to Dartmouth.
“All the work that it takes to put in to be great — it starts tomorrow,” sophomore defensive lineman Ty Desire said. “We have to realize we’re not the team we were last year up front, and we can’t ride anyone’s coattails.”
Without the star power of recent years, the Tigers will have to work as a unit, rather than rely on dominating key matchups. Injuries played a role in this season’s disappointing 5-5 finish. Those missing time on offense included senior receiver Seth DeValve, junior running back DiAndre Atwater, senior offensive lineman Spencer Huston and, perhaps most importantly, senior quarterback Quinn Epperly.
Though Epperly suited up for eight of the 10 games this season, injuries limited his effectiveness. At the beginning of the season there were hints that Epperly might join Mike Catapano ’13 and Caraun Reid ’14 as an NFL prospect. As the season progressed, however, it became apparent that this likely would not be the case.
The Tigers will not only be missing their captain and playmaker on offense. They also lose their top defensive player, senior linebacker Mike Zeuli, who led the Tigers with 87 tackles this season and 16.5 tackles for losses.
“The [seniors] are very influential. Coming in as a freshman they teach you the way of Princeton football and how you have to be to win,” sophomore running back Joe Rhattigan. “They were part of that championship teach last year, they were part of this team this year, so you learn from them and they obviously have the experience.”
With first lady Michelle Obama ’85 on hand to cheer for her niece, Leslie Robinson ’18, women’s basketball defeated American 63-56 in Washington, D.C. Senior Blake Dietrick led the undefeated Tigers with 19 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists. Junior Annie Tarakchian recorded Princeton’s first double-double of the season with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Men’s water polo lost to Brown, 7-6, falling short of the CWPA title and an automatic bid to the NCAA Final Four. The loss ended Princeton’s 12 game win-streak; the Tigers finished the season 23-4.
Wrestling standout Abe Ayala ’16 won the 197-pound bracket at the Navy Classic, beating two top-15 ranked wrestlers in the process, and the Tigers finished second in the event’s team scoring.
At the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind., women’s cross country star Megan Curham ’17 earned All-America honors for the second time, placing 18th overall.