Freshman Alanna Wolff won the clinching singles match against Arizona State. (Beverly Schaefer)
When the women’s tennis team arrived in Tuscaloosa, Ala., to compete in the NCAA Championships, it was the Tigers’ fifth appearance in the tournament in program history. No Princeton team had ever won a match on the national stage before. Across the court stood Arizona State, back for its 27th consecutive year.
The Sun Devils’ No. 25 ranking and longstanding NCAA tradition, however, did not daunt this year’s Ivy League champions, who came into the competition riding a 10-match winning streak.
“It was a great draw for us and we knew we were capable of beating them,” junior Katie Goepel said. “Knowing how far we had already come, I think all of us had the belief that we could win if we went into it with the same mentality that we had throughout the entire Ivy season, which we definitely did.”
Despite a hard fought win from sophomore duo Emily Hahn and Amanda Muliawan on the court, Arizona State took the doubles point after Princeton’s remaining matches could not rally. Continue reading
Lindsay Graff ’15 was the first Tiger since Hilary Bartlett ’12 in 2010 to go 7-0 in the Ivy League at the top singles spot. (Office of Athletic Communications)
In March, the women’s tennis team was 8-5 and reeling after a pair of lopsided losses, just 10 days away from its Ivy League opener. Princeton was about to lose its national ranking with the toughest part of its schedule around the corner. With the Tigers dangerously slipping towards the .500 mark, head coach Laura Granville and her staff pulled the team in for a meeting.
“They said, ‘We all know we’re really talented, and we know we’re really good, but none of the other Ivies are worried about us,’” junior Katie Goepel said. “And that really lit a fire under us. We really wanted to prove that we are the team you see now.”
That Tiger team that you see now is the team that won the Ivy League Championship outright this weekend with a perfect 7-0 conference record. Since that fire was lit, Princeton has won 10 straight, including three matches against nationally ranked opponents.
Ranked No. 58 going into last weekend’s matches, Princeton beat Cornell 6-1 on the road on Friday to clinch at least a share of the Ivy title, before returning to home court to defeat No. 37 Columbia on Sunday. The Ancient Eight title also gives Princeton an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament in May, the Tigers’ first trip since 2010. Continue reading
Men’s rugby spent a week training on the wind-swept west coast of Ireland. (Courtesy Chris Shin ’17)
On night in mid-November when temperatures dipped below freezing, Nick Martin ’15 sat pedaling on a stationary bike outside of Frist Campus Center. He was one of 40 Princeton men’s rugby players and alumni to participate in the team’s “Dash to Dublin” — a round-the-clock, eight-day bike-a-thon to raise money for the spring break training trip that the team just returned from.
The tour, which has been part of Princeton rugby tradition since the mid 1970s, is critical for the team. The Tigers have traveled to England, Argentina, the Cayman Islands, and all over the world to see how their team stacks up against international standards in places where rugby is the most popular sport.
This year the team traveled to Ireland, where not only is the competition tougher, but the weather is too. The squad spent the majority of its time training on the west coast near notoriously windy Galway.
“The field was soaked in water. It was one of the windiest places I’ve ever been,” Martin said. “You’d be standing around the huddle and get blown over. You couldn’t even pass the ball. It’s definitely not like Princeton.” Continue reading
The last time the men’s volleyball team beat Penn State, Cody Kessel was six years old. On Friday night, the junior outside hitter contributed 14 of Princeton’s 55 kills and helped secure the Tigers’ first win over the Nittany Lions since 1998.
Cody Kessel ’15 (Photo: Courtesy Office of Athletic Communications)
After Princeton dropped the first set of the match 18-25, everything indicated that things would go in the same direction as they always have for Penn State. The No. 10 Nittany Lions have won every EIVA championship since Princeton’s lone title 15 years ago. Heading into Friday night’s match, Penn State had dropped just one conference loss in the last five years and entered on a nation-best 12-match winning streak.
Penn State’s circumstances quickly changed when Princeton clawed its way to a 22-25 second set victory. The Tigers ran away with the third set as well after jumping out to a formidable 8-1 lead off the serving of senior Pat Schwagler and freshman Chris Kennedy.
“We knew we had to be aggressive with our serving game to get Penn State out of system,” Kessel said. “We were able to do that this time better than we have in the past. Even though I think they hit better than us percentage wise, we were able to win the serve battle.” Continue reading
A lot has changed for the men’s squash team over the last year. The Tigers entered this season without two players from the top five spots on the ladder — most notably Todd Harrity ’13, the three-time CSA national finalist and 2011 champion. It would also be the first time in 32 years that Princeton would take the court not under the training of Hall of Famer Bob Callahan ’77, the head coach that led Princeton to the legendary 2012 national championship over Trinity and retired last year.
The Tigers finished the year with a 5-7 overall, 3-4 Ivy League record after dropping their final match of the regular season 6-3 to Cornell. And although this year’s seniors finished their collegiate squash careers without Callahan or an Ivy League title, they made sure to end them on a personal high note.
Ash Egan ’14, left, and Dylan Ward ’14 (Photos: Office of Athletic Communications)
Seniors Ash Egan and Dylan Ward both earned victories in their final collegiate match on the Jadwin Gymnasium C-floor. Ward, playing at the No. 3 spot, dominated his match in three games and only gave up eight points. It was fitting that the courts where he played his last match at Jadwin were where he won victories in the 2012 national championship and the 2013 Harvard match that led Princeton to that year’s Ivy title. Egan got off to a rockier start, dropping his opening game at No. 8 before winning the next three to earn the victory.
“I was happy to finish my home career on a high note,” Egan said. “It was a hard fought battle against a solid team.”
New head coach Sean Wilkinson — the eighth men’s squash coach in Princeton’s 83-year-old program — hopes to have a more definitively positive ending at the looming CSA team championship after a season of mixed results. The team championships, hosted by Harvard in Boston, are just two weeks away, and Wilkinson will be heavily relying on his seniors as well as his top two players in the flight, All-America juniors Samuel Kang and Tyler Osbourne. Rookie Ben Leizman has also put in some solid matches at the No. 9 position.
Julie Cerullo ’13 was a staple in the women’s squash lineup, playing almost every match of her Princeton career at the No. 1 position and earning All-America honors four years in row. When Cerullo graduated in June, she left a huge hole for the No. 1 incoming freshman in the country to fill.
Maria Elena Ubina ’17 (Photo: Courtesy Office of Athletic Communications)
Rookie Maria Elena Ubina started her first collegiate squash season as the top-ranked player at the under-19 level and boasts an impressive resume. A four-time member of the U.S. World Junior team, Ubina won the 2011 U.S. Junior Open Squash Championship in the under-19 category when she was just 16 years old.
Ubina, however, says that playing on the collegiate level is different than competing on the junior circuit.
“Playing for [head coach] Gail [Ramsay] and playing with the team was a different experience because college squash is so different from junior squash,” Ubina said. “Junior squash is very different because you’re playing for yourself. This is more team-oriented. Even playing for your country, it’s a little more individual. The kids are younger and they’re a little more self-centered, but here everyone is rooting for the University instead of for themselves.”
Ubina has had an interesting start to her season thus far. After easily sweeping her opponents in the season’s first two matches, she was forced to sit out Princeton’s match against Drexel due to an ankle injury. She returned to the court on Saturday at “pretty much” 100 percent to take on George Washington’s Gaby Parras in a high-scoring match that went to five games.
It was an important test for Ubina, who will face off against reigning national champion Amanda Sobhy when Princeton plays Harvard after its return from winter break in January. The match will prove to be an interesting parallel between Ubina and Cerullo, given Princeton’s recent rivalry with the Crimson on the court.