Three weeks before the men’s tennis team starts its Ivy League season, the conference is shaping up to be one of the toughest that Princeton has seen in years. As the Tigers rounded out this weekend’s 7-0 double-header victories over Army and Binghamton, Princeton solidified its spot on the national stage. Yet even at No. 25 in Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) rankings, Princeton is the third-best Ivy team in what could be one of the most exciting seasons in Ancient Eight history.
Zack McCourt ’15 (Office of Athletic Communications)
Leading the pack is senior Zack McCourt, ranked 124th in singles and a member of last year’s first-team All-Ivy League singles team, building on that season with multiple clutch victories at the No. 1 spot this year. McCourt said that he is trying to end his collegiate career with “a punch and a bang,” with mental maturation and match-day focus being a critical component of that. A strong Ivy schedule only adds fuel to the fire.
“Competing at a higher level helps the team to improve even faster, so it’s definitely a privilege — particularly when you’re being tested on a national scale,” McCourt said.
The Tigers were forced to fill holes in their roster left by Ivy heavyweight Matija Pecotic ’13 and last year’s graduates Dan Davies and Augie Bloom. Sophomores Thomas Colautti and Alexander Day have been instrumental in adding depth to the lineup and clinching wins in the hot 13-3 start to this season. More importantly, McCourt added, is that this year’s team just loves to compete.
“The sophomore class returns with invaluable experience, while a deep freshman class fortifies the remainder of the lineup,” McCourt said. “I can’t remember ever playing with a group of guys who have so much fun on the court as our team does now. That kind of competitiveness coupled with the team’s talent and outstanding work ethic has made all the difference.” Continue reading
Michelle Miller ’16 scored a combined 31 points in the weekend wins over Columbia and Cornell. (Beverly Schaefer)
A new semester did nothing to stall the women’s basketball team’s winning ways: The No. 18 Tigers won their fifth straight Ivy game and extended their undefeated record to 21-0 after beating Columbia and Cornell at Jadwin Gym Feb. 6 and 7.
Friday’s 83-44 victory against Columbia showcased Princeton’s domination in the paint, as the Tigers held a 50-6 margin in points there. Junior guard Michelle Miller continues to be a force to be reckoned with, sinking 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting. Upperclassman duo Blake Dietrick ’15 and Taylor Williams ’16 put up eight points, six rebounds, and four assists, and joined by junior Alex Wheatley’s 10 points and three rebounds, rounded out the defensive block to thrash the Lions.
On Saturday against Cornell, Princeton never trailed, paced by Miller’s double-double (15 points and 11 rebounds). Wheatley followed close behind with 14 points and eight rebounds, and the Tigers routed the Big Red 75-47. The win matched the 21 straight wins record that was set during the 2009-10 season.
Dietrick said that a huge factor in the team’s success this year is that the Tigers have “recommitted this season to our defense,” as Princeton leads the Ivy League in rebounds and has won by at least a 20-point margin of victory in all but three of its matchups. This points to Princeton’s incredible depth as well — Tigers hold three of the Ivy League’s top five spots in both field goal percentage as well as three-point percentage. Continue reading
Abram Ayala ’16 (Office of Athletic Communications)
Princeton wrestling awards the Triede Trophy each year to the member of the team “who by his spirit, ability, and sportsmanship has contributed most to the sport.” Last year, that privilege went to Abe Ayala ’16, who had a standout sophomore season in the 197-pound bracket. His 27-win season included a fifth-place finish at the EWIA Championships, which clinched a debut appearance at the NCAA Championships.
“Last season felt like a dream,” Ayala said.
The dream followed a freshman campaign that was more like a nightmare for Ayala, who was dismissed from the team late in his first season. Ayala admitted that as a rookie, he invested a lot into the season too early on and in the wrong places. He said that he didn’t account for the jump from high school to college wrestling.
Ayala also was cutting a lot of weight. He walked onto campus weighing around 190 pounds, but started the season wrestling at 165. He was locked in a position battle for the starting spot, and he wrestled poorly in his first tournament.
“After that performance in the first tournament, I was losing morale,” Ayala said. “And with the combined pressure of the wrestle-off, I kind of mentally broke, that’s the bottom line.” Continue reading
Cameron Porter ’15, left, in action vs. Penn Nov. 8. (Beverly Schaefer)
As the clock wound down in New Haven Saturday night, the men’s soccer team was faced with the possibility of ending its Ivy League season the same way it had started — with a long, drawn out match in which the Tigers (11-3-3 overall, 5-1-1 Ivy) came out on the wrong side.
“We knew the game would be a challenge,” senior forward Cameron Porter said. “No team wants to end the season on a loss.”
Porter — No. 1 in the NCAA in total goals, goals per game, and points per game — stepped up with the league title on the line. With 32:35 to play in the second half, he scored the only goal of the match. Princeton held on and clinched a share of the Ivy championship.
“For parts of the game they definitely had the better of us, but it was great to see the defense step up and get a huge shutout,” Porter said. Continue reading
Last year, Princeton football made headlines for lining up its three quarterbacks on the field at the same time, alternating who took the snaps. As unusual as the strategy seemed, it paid off—the Tigers led the Ivy League in yards per game and rushing yards last season. Of that trio, then-junior Quinn Epperly was the most familiar face on the field. The 2013 Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year topped the conference in both rushing and passing touchdowns, leading the nation in points responsible per game.
Connor Michelsen ’15 (Office of Athletic Communications)
But as Ivy football rolls into its midpoint this season, Princeton saw a change of scenery in its quarterback spot during a 27-16 victory over Brown. Senior Connor Michelsen, taking over for his injured classmate Epperly, looked comfortable in the pocket throughout the game, throwing for 367 yards and two touchdowns to keep Princeton perfect at 2-0 in Ivy play (3-2 overall).
On Saturday, there was no trace of the sluggish starts that plagued the Tigers last season. Princeton sealed its victory early, scoring on each of its first four drives to the Brown end zone. Kicker Nolan Bieck ’16 converted on a 26-yard field goal to start things off, bringing him to twelve consecutive conversions since last season. Michelsen later connected with Matt Costello ’15 for a 49-yard touchdown, moving the seasoned wide receiver into sixth place on Princeton’s all-time receptions list. Continue reading
Sarah Daschbach ’16’s serves helped Princeton open the Ivy League season with a win over Penn. (Office of Athletic Communications)
For the last four years, Yale has held an iron grip on first place in Ivy League women’s volleyball. Each Ancient Eight team knows that the key to dethroning the Bulldogs is winning out their other Ivy matches, since Yale has gone undefeated in league play only once in that time.
Add that kind of heavy Ivy pressure to the fact that Princeton’s league opener against Penn has gone deep into the fifth set in each those four years, and the odds start stacking up against the Tigers. But this Friday in Philadelphia, Princeton broke with this tradition and pulled out a quick three-set victory, pulling the team up to 6-5 overall on the season. The 25-15, 25-16, 25-14 win was a much needed confidence booster for the Tigers—it is their only three-set victory this season.
The match didn’t look so bright for Princeton at first. Penn held a 10-8 lead early in the first set, until junior libero Sarah Daschbach embarked on a 10-0 service run to blow the Quakers away. Daschbach’s serves would be critical in the second game as well, when she built up the Tiger lead in an opening 9-0 run.
“Smart and aggressive hits were the key to success,” Daschbach said. She also pointed to junior Kendall Peterkin and sophomore Cara Mattaliano’s offensive skills, saying on the backcourt, “Kendall and Cara are great at hitting from the back row and giving us plenty of offensive options.” Continue reading