Syracuse hands No. 3 Princeton field hockey its first loss

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Kat Sharkey ’14, pictured in action against Richmond, leads the nation in scoring, but she and her Princeton teammates could not convert opportunities against No. 2 Syracuse. (Photo: Beverly Schaefer)
Offensive firepower is not something the Princeton field hockey team has lacked often this season. Kat Sharkey ’13 currently leads the nation in scoring — just as she did in 2010 — with 17 goals in eight games, on pace for the best single season in Princeton history. And six other players, including Olympians Katie Reinprecht ’13, Julia Reinprecht ’14, and Michelle Cesan ’14, have scored at least nine goals in a season before, giving the Tigers tons of proven options.
 
But on Sunday, all those options were fruitless against a terrific Syracuse defense, which handed Princeton its first loss of the season. The Tigers had their chances to score, but the Orange had more, winning 2-0 even as goalie Christina Maida ’14 made eight impressive saves.
 
No. 2 Syracuse and No. 3 Princeton entered Sunday as two of four Division 1 teams still undefeated, making their meeting the first heavyweight showdown to take place at the newly installed Bedford Field (a picturesque venue that players say they like much better than their former home, the multipurpose Class of 1952 Stadium). From the beginning, the visitors’ defensive strength was obvious: Princeton didn’t attempt a shot until the 11th minute and didn’t earn a single penalty corner in the first half, which ended 0-0.
 
“They were very tough individual defenders, and they prevented us from getting a lot of scoring opportunities,” Sharkey said. “They’re very strong with their tackles, and we didn’t play around that as much as we would’ve liked.”
 
From the opening whistle of the second half, a more intense Princeton press turned the tide, forcing several Syracuse turnovers in the visitors’ defensive area. But the Tigers couldn’t convert, turning two early turnovers into three penalty corners but no goals. Midway through the second period, Syracuse found ways to beat Princeton’s press, and after controlling a long stretch of play, the Orange finally broke through when Leonie Geyer hammered a long shot past Maida off of a penalty corner.
 

Chasing a 1-0 deficit, Princeton upped its pressure even more and had a few chances to equalize — none better than in the 61st minute, when a Sharkey shot off of a penalty corner hit both posts but somehow stayed out of the cage — but still had no luck. With about five minutes to play, Syracuse slipped past the overcommitted Tigers and scored on a breakaway, supplying the final 2-0 margin.
 
For Princeton, there’s no great shame in losing to a Syracuse squad that could be No. 1 in the polls next week (the Orange beat current No. 1 UNC earlier this season, 1-0 in overtime, and has allowed only six goals in nine games). But the Tigers have their own sights set on No. 1 — if not now, then as the last team standing in the NCAA tournament, which Princeton has never won — and Sunday’s result makes it clear they still have work to do. “We’re going to look at finishing and creating more definite scoring opportunities,” Sharkey said. “We had the ball in the offensive 25[-yard zone] a lot, but we weren’t quite able to get that final shot.”
 
Quick takes
 
In front of ESPNU cameras — and a student section as strong as any I’ve seen in four seasons, at least for the first half — FOOTBALL lost to Georgetown 21-20 on a last-minute field goal. The Tigers played well in many areas, as speedy running back DiAndre Atwater ’16 broke out for 92 yards and the defense notched four sacks, but a few mistakes did them in: The hosts gave Georgetown six points when a fumbled snap was recovered in the end zone, and they left 10 more on the board with three missed field goals from Nolan Bieck ’16 (two of which were rather long) and a blocked extra-point attempt that ultimately made the difference.
 
WOMEN’S VOLLEYBALL won its conference opener, dropping Penn 3-2 on the road Saturday. The two teams were tied 13-13 in the fifth set before Princeton took the final two points and the match, hearkening back to 2011, when the Tigers won all four of their five-set Ivy League contests.
 
After thrashing Lafayette 5-2 last week, WOMEN’S SOCCER dropped Yale 2-1 in overtime to open Ivy League play on a strong note. It took a significant stroke of luck — a Yale defender accidentally headed a long throw-in by Liana Cornacchio ’15 into her own net in sudden-death overtime — but in the box score, it was a deserved win for Princeton, which outshot the Bulldogs 16-6.
 
MEN’S SOCCER swept Rider and Fairleigh Dickinson at the Princeton Invitational, winning 3-1 and 2-0, respectively. Forward Thomas Sanner ’16 has had a hand in six of Princeton’s eight goals so far this season, including two assists Friday and a goal Sunday — and if his name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s joined forces this year with older brother Matt Sanner ’13, who followed Thomas’s goal with one of his own Sunday.
 

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Kevin Whitaker ’13 is an economics major and Daily Princetonian sports editor.