Top five Princeton sports headlines of 2009

i-ed760e23f75ec2a84bb110ee3db59e02-2009.jpg i-155090ba46f5e257dd450aefe63375bb-LIVE.SP_Sharkey.jpgThis year’s Tiger sports headlines included a parade of championship teams and two high-profile coaching departures. Read our choices, and add your favorites in the comment section below.

1. Field hockey reaches Final Four

In the semifinal round of the NCAA tournament Nov. 20, the Princeton field hockey team put forth a valiant effort against top-seeded Maryland, but the Tigers came up just short, losing 7-5 to the Terrapins. “We have an amazing core of young women who give everything they have,” coach Kristen Holmes-Winn said afterward. “They are an incredible foundation. We will be able to build on this as a program. Once you get a taste of this, it’s hard to go back. We will be fighting and clawing to keep getting better.” (Full story in PAW’s Jan. 13, 2010 issue)

2. Laxmen’s Tierney and Metzbower resign

Athletic director Gary Walters ’67 found himself looking for a men’s lacrosse coach after Bill Tierney resigned June 8 to accept the head-coaching job at the University of Denver and longtime assistant David Metzbower chose to leave Princeton rather than replace Tierney. The moves came just weeks after a season in which Princeton went 13-3, beat Syracuse (the eventual national champion), and lost in the NCAA quarterfinals to Cornell, with whom Princeton shared the Ivy League title. … (July 15)

3. Men’s lightweights complete perfect season

Only seven qualifying boats entered the men’s lightweight crew final June 6 at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association Regatta in Lake Natoma, Calif., and Princeton, the Eastern champion and race favorite, faced a straightforward challenge: 2,000 meters of open water, with a national title waiting at the finish. The Tigers started strong, taking a two-second lead in the opening 500 meters. They finished even stronger, beating second-place Yale to the line by 4.77 seconds. … (July 15)

4. Hughes fired after 4-6 season

The University fired head football coach Roger Hughes Nov. 22, less than 24 hours after the Tigers beat Dartmouth, 23-11, in their season finale. Hughes, the Princeton coach for 10 seasons, was 47-52 overall and won the Ivy League title in 2006. In a release, Director of Athletics Gary Walters ’67 called Hughes a “fine ambassador of the football program” but said that the program needed a “fresh start.”
The Tigers were 4-6 overall and 3-4 in the league in each of the last three seasons. Princeton was .500 or better against four Ivy schools during Hughes’ tenure, but against rivals Yale, Harvard, and Penn, the coach had a combined 8-22 record. … (Dec. 9)

5. Heartbreak for men’s hockey: Late goals spoil postseason

Princeton men’s hockey was mere seconds away from a historic win March 27 in its first-round NCAA tournament game against the University of Minnesota, Duluth, leading 4-2 with less than a minute left on the clock. Princeton fans in the stands celebrated. The band blasted its horns. But the party proved premature. The Bulldogs, playing in front of a home-state crowd at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis, scored two goals in the final 65 seconds of regulation and netted the game-winner with 6:21 remaining in overtime, tagging a heartbreaking ending onto the Tigers’ otherwise successful 2008­-09 season. … (April 22)

Honorable mention: Women’s squash wins third consecutive Howe Cup; Women’s cross country places fifth at NCAA meet; Men’s water polo earns surprise spot in Final Four