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November 21, 2012
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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.