When the Princeton men’s soccer team took the field at Roberts Stadium on Saturday, trying to stay undefeated in the Ivy League against Columbia, no one was rooting for the Tigers more than a group of men in the stands who had found themselves in the same position 20 years ago.
The 1993 squad returned to campus, as the program honored the NCAA Final Four team at halftime. That year, when the Tigers reached the semifinals of the national tournament for the first time in history, the only blemish on their Ivy record was a 3-1 defeat to Columbia. The loss meant that Princeton would share the Ivy championship with the Lions.
Two decades later, Columbia and Princeton both entered the match as undefeated Ivy teams, but history did not repeat itself. Sophomore midfielder Brendan McSherry scored his first career goal in the 87th minute, giving the Tigers a 2-1 victory and knocking the Lions out of the top of the Ivy standings.
At an alumni banquet after the game, assistant coach Jesse Marsch ’96 read a letter written by Bob Bradley ’80, the coach of the ’93 squad. Bradley, who was not able to attend because of his obligations as the head coach of the Egyptian national team, said that the Final Four team had a huge role in starting his career at a professional level, and that he always loves reading about the program because Princeton was such a special time for him.
Bradley also stressed how special the history of Princeton’s soccer program is. The Tigers played their first game in November 1906, and their first game against the Lions was a year later. With Saturday’s victory, Princeton’s record against Columbia in over a hundred years of athletic competition now stands at 21-31-9.
Junior defender Myles McGinley said that the alumni offered important advice and emphasized the importance of sportsmanship and playing not as individuals, but as part of a larger unit.
“They talked a lot about taking the ego out of it and putting the team first,” McGinley said.
Princeton will try to keep its Ivy win streak going next weekend at Harvard. Penn, Princeton, Yale, and Harvard sit at the top of the Ivy League with two wins each.
“Harvard is going to be a tough team. They’ve just beaten both Cornell and Brown, two of the usual powerhouses in Ivy League soccer,” McGinley said. “However, I think if we keep our team mentality and stick to the game plan of moving the ball quickly in the offensive half and quickly recovering the ball when it turns over, we will have a great chance of beating them. Also, this week is always tough for the team mentally with mid-term exams and assignments being due, so making sure we are responsible and pull together off the field will also be important.”
Football found itself trailing Brown by 17 in the Tigers’ first Ivy road game of the season. But Princeton made a 39-point run that included three rushing touchdowns by junior quarterback Quinn Epperly and shut out the Bears for the final 45 minutes of the game to stay perfect in league play and improve to 4-1 overall.
Field hockey also extended its winning streak in the Ancient Eight, beating Brown 6-2 in Providence. The No. 9 Tigers outshot the Bears 46-4. Princeton finishes its five-game road stretch next weekend at Harvard and No. 12 Albany.
Men’s lightweight crew won the varsity-eight race at the Head of the Charles Regatta in impressive fashion, outpacing second-place Harvard by eight seconds. The men’s heavyweight crew varsity eight finished 13th; the women’s open crew varsity eight took 12th; and the women’s lightweight crew varsity eight placed seventh.