By Brittany Urick ’10
A 4-0 trouncing of Yale Nov. 13 helped the MEN’S SOCCER team punch its ticket for Princeton’s first NCAA tournament appearance in eight years. Sophomore forward Antoine Hoppenot stole the show thanks to a hard-earned hat trick, but the win, which was televised before a national audience on Fox Soccer Channel, can be attributed to a solid defensive effort, impressive control of the midfield, and an unrelenting offensive onslaught that involved every player on the field. The Tiger teamwork, a product of veteran leadership and talented youth, has been a hallmark of Princeton throughout the season.
The Tigers began the year with high hopes, posting a perfect 4-0 record in their first four matches. Princeton hit a slump toward the end of September, however, and dropped two Ivy League contests to Dartmouth and Brown. The skid stopped when a 3-0 home victory over Columbia on Oct. 17 renewed Princeton’s confidence. One week later, the Tigers earned arguably their most remarkable win of the season when they defeated then-No. 11 Harvard, 2-1, in a double-overtime game in Cambridge.
While confident about its chances to receive an NCAA bid, especially in light of the resounding win against Yale, the team knew that there was still a chance it would not advance to the tournament given the strength of other Ivy League competitors, including Harvard, Brown, and Dartmouth. On Monday, the Tigers gathered in Frist Campus Center to watch their fate play out on the selection show on ESPNEWS.
“It was pretty dramatic,” senior captain and midfielder Devin Muntz said. “When Dartmouth was shown to have a first-round game, we started to think that maybe we didn’t get in. They showed 12 teams at a time on the screen and we weren’t in the first three screens. … As if to make things more dramatic, we were the final team in the final screen that was shown. However, once we all realized that we had made the tournament, the team went crazy and cheered, probably annoying many of the people trying to study in Frist.”
Princeton, currently riding an eight-game undefeated streak, will now prepare to face Bucknell in the first round of the tournament Nov. 19. The game will be played at 7 p.m. at Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium, and the winner will advance to face second-seeded Virginia.