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PAW editors ranked the top five Princeton sports headlines in an eventful year that included three national championships, seven Olympic medals, and a memorable Saturday at Princeton Stadium. Share your picks and rankings below in the comments.
5. Cabral ’12 leaps to victory in NCAA steeplechase
An exceptional year for the men’s track and field team ended with Donn Cabral ’12 doing what no Princeton runner had done in nearly eight decades: With his first-place finish in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the NCAA Championships June 9, he became the first Princeton runner to win an NCAA title since 1934. READ MORE
4. Football stuns Harvard with come-from-behind victory
During the Oct. 20 football game against Harvard, 10,823 Princeton fans learned how wide a range of emotions they could feel in a three-and-a-half-hour span. READ MORE
3. Princetonians excel at London Olympics
Seven Tiger athletes won medals, including repeat gold-medalist rower Caroline Lind ’06, and Russia men’s basketball coach David Blatt ’81 led his team to bronze. It was the best showing in Princeton’s long history at the summer games. READ MORE
2. Field hockey beats North Carolina to win first NCAA title
Before 2012, the field hockey team had a history of November heartbreak. Princeton had reached 11 quarterfinals, five semifinals and two championship games — but it had never won the big one, falling short in the 1996 and ’98 title games. All that changed on a Sunday afternoon in Norfolk, Va. READ MORE
1. Men’s squash defeats Trinity for national title
In front of a raucous crowd in a packed Jadwin Gym, the men’s squash team ended Trinity’s 13-year streak as national champions Feb. 19, winning its first national championship since 1993 with a 5–4 victory against No. 1-seeded Trinity. READ MORE
December 10, 2012
November 26, 2012
November 19, 2012
November 19, 2012
By Dave Hunter ’72
Louisville, Ky. — Saving its best for last, the Princeton men’s cross country squad ran a brilliant and heady race when it counted most. Closing hard over the final kilometers in Louisville’s E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park, the Tiger runners moved smartly through the field and captured their prize: an 11th place team finish – the best NCAA championship performance by any men’s cross country team in the school’s history. A beaming Jason Vigilante – the Tigers’ new head coach – described his charges’ big race performance as “beyond exceptional.”
The Tigers were led by Heptagonal champion Chris Bendtsen ’14 who raced over the 10-kilometer course in 30:07 to finish 43rd. Chasing him into the finish chute were Heps runner-up Alejandro Arroyo Yamin ’14 (58th in 30:24) and Tyler Udland ’14 ( 79th in 30:33). Mike Franklin ’13 (134th in 31:06) and Matt McDonald ’15 (151st in 31:06) rounded out the scoring.
Nimble preseason adjustments were necessary to preserve the team’s opportunity for success this fall, and Vigilante cited the resiliency of his athletes. They were compelled to adapt to the late summer departure of Tiger head coach and distance guru Steve Dolan – who left Princeton to take on the director of track and cross country position at Penn – and to Vigilante’s arrival as the new coach.
“The guys who had moved on from the program had really established a phenomenal culture. For me coming in, it wasn’t difficult. I was accepted,” Vigilante said. “The runners here wanted to be part of a new program, a new page.”
But the head coach is quick to acknowledge this season’s boost from the legacy of excellence established by Dolan and his accomplished athletes, many of whom had graduated. “Coach Dolan had done a tremendous job. Donn Cabral, Joe Stilin, and Trevor Van Ackeren [all of the Class of 2012] really were the foundation for developing this new program. This is the byproduct of that.”
In the women’s 6-kilometer championship race, senior Greta Feldman – who earlier this year earned All-America honors for her sixth-place finish in the 1,500 meters at the NCAA Outdoor National Championships – ran 20:42.5 to finish 88th.
Dave Hunter ’72, the 1968 recipient of Princeton’s Rosengarten Trophy, is a lawyer and a banker in Akron, Ohio. He ran his marathon PR of 2:31:40 in the 1983 Boston Marathon.
November 12, 2012
NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The last time the football team played at Yale with a Big Three bonfire at stake, in November of 2006, Princeton faced an 11-point deficit in the final 10 minutes in a battle of eventual Ivy League co-champions. Star quarterback Jeff Terrell ’07 led a memorable comeback, guiding his team to two late touchdowns and lighting up Cannon Green for the first time in 12 years.
On Saturday, with Big Three bragging rights on the line once again, no such drama was required. Having already used up their fourth-quarter heroics with a 24-point comeback against Harvard three weeks earlier, the Tigers took their first lead shortly before halftime and never relinquished it, pounding the injury-ravaged Bulldogs 29-7 and bringing a bonfire back to Princeton.
For the first 15 minutes of the game, it looked as if loads of firewood might lay dormant for another year. Using a multi-option rushing attack and occasional well-placed passes, the Bulldogs marched into Princeton territory on each of their first three drives, scoring a 14-yard touchdown on their second possession. Meanwhile, the Tigers went three-and-out on each of their first two possessions; only two third-down stops of threatening Yale drives kept their margin at seven points.
But as soon as the teams switched sides for the second quarter, the mood changed. Princeton marched 70 yards down the field in three minutes, led by efficient passing by Connor Michelsen ’15. The sophomore was eventually picked off in the end zone, but after a quick defensive stand, quarterback Quinn Epperly ’15 led a 77-yard touchdown drive on the next possession.
Yale reached the Tigers’ five-yard line in the final minutes of the first half and was poised to take a lead into intermission. But running back Mordecai Cargill attempted a trick pass, running to the right side and throwing back to the left — and cornerback Trocon Davis ’14 was ready for it. Davis snagged the ball at the goal line and ran with it the length of the field for a 100-yard score, the second-longest interception return in Ivy League history.
November 5, 2012
In 2010, the Penn women’s soccer team visited Roberts Stadium with the Ivy League title and an NCAA tournament bid on the line. A win would have given Princeton the conference title, but the Quakers’ defense held the hosts scoreless, grinding out a 0-0 draw that clinched Penn’s ticket to the postseason and ended the Tigers’ campaign.
The two teams returned to Roberts Stadium on Saturday with the roles reversed — and Princeton got revenge. This time, the Tigers only needed a draw to secure the Ivy League’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, but they got even more, beating Penn 4-2 for their 11th straight win (tied for the nation’s second-longest active streak).
“We know every year that at the end of the year, we’re going to be playing Penn,” midfielder Caitlin Blosser ’13 said. “We didn’t want to share the title at all — we wanted to win it outright.”
Many of this year’s Tigers could remember the heartbreaking end to the 2010 season, as eight of Saturday’s starting 11 were upperclassmen. Princeton’s Class of 2013 leads the team from all areas of the field — forward Jen Hoy ’13 entered the weekend ranked second in the nation with 1.06 goals per game, midfielder Rachel Sheehy ’13 is tied for the league lead with seven assists, Alison Nabatoff ’13 is one of the league’s top defenders, and Claire Pinciaro ’13 directs the back line from goal — and those seniors didn’t want to be the first class since 1999 to graduate without an Ivy title. “They’re the ones who really put things in place for us to have a good season,” head coach Julie Shackford said.
It was a sophomore, however, who provided a critical spark against Penn. Lauren Lazo ’15 gave the hosts some breathing room in the 13th minute, drilling a hard shot into the left side of the goal, and she hit almost the same part of the net again 30 minutes later to extend the Tigers’ lead to 2-0. Early in the second half, Hoy got a breakaway, drew the goalie off her line and then deftly passed to Lazo, who found the empty goal to complete her hat trick.
Saturday’s finale capped a stellar Ivy League season for Lazo, who scored eight goals in seven conference games. With opposing defenses often keying on Hoy, the sophomore showed a knack for springing free at the right time to find the ball in shooting range. “She’s just a gamer. The more competitive the game is, the tighter the game is, the more she can find a way,” Shackford said.
Penn scored twice in the second half, crossing from the left side to set up each goal, to make the final stretch of physical, loosely-officiated soccer more interesting. But with seven minutes left in regulation, another Hoy breakaway led to a wild sequence with the ball bouncing around the box; it ended up at the foot of Blosser, who drilled it into the net from 20 yards away.
“We gathered ourselves after their two goals … and we refocused ourselves on getting that last goal,” Blosser said. “We pretty much knew it was over at that point.”
The Tigers will learn their next opponent when the NCAA tournament bracket is released at 4:30 this afternoon. Princeton certainly has momentum on its side after completing the fifth 7-0-0 season in Ivy League history. The last team to accomplish that feat? The 2004 Tigers, who went on to reach the Final Four.