For the first time in program history, the Princeton field
hockey team won the NCAA Division I National Championship in a comeback 3-2
victory over No. 1 North Carolina Sunday in Norfolk, Va. In a battle between
the top two teams in the nation, it took another resilient effort by the Tigers
to top the six-time national champions.
Like Friday's semifinal victory, Princeton won the game off
a penalty stroke, this time in regulation from Amanda Bird in the 60th minute.
Many referred to this team as a team of
destiny, returning four U.S. National Team players, including Olympians in
sisters Julia and Katie Reinprecht, but getting to that point proved to be a
The opening minutes of the match saw a hustling pace, as
both sides looked to possess the ball; however it was North Carolina to take
the initial advantage.
The Tar Heels earned consecutive penalty corners in the
third and fourth minutes, but Princeton managed to deflect off their set piece
plays. Before the Tigers were able to fire off a shot of their own, UNC was
awarded another series of corners. On North Carolina's fourth corner of the
match, Charlotte Craddock sent in the opening goal at 11:26.
Down 1-0, Princeton found an offensive surge and moved the
ball into the Tar Heel circle. On a Kathleen Sharkey drive outside the cage,
she was fouled and the Tigers set up their first penalty corner of the game. J.
Reinprecht fed the ball to K. Reinprecht
and Sharkey was there to slam in the tying goal at 17:01. The ball tipped off a
UNC defender, but was on target the entire time.
At the 31:38-minute mark, Princeton set up for its fifth
penalty corner of the game. Unable to find a lane on the initial attempt, the
ball would move between Tigers and J. Reinprecht nearly had a chance to put Princeton
up for the first time in the game.
Knotted 1-1, the second half opened similarly to the first,
both sides exchanging possession and unable to convert on penalty corners.
The Tigers saw one of their best chances to take the lead in
the 44th minute off a Kelsey Byrne drive down the right flank. She found an open
Allison Evans in the circle, but her point blank shot was stopped by UNC's
goalie Sassi Ammer.
On North Carolina's ensuing drive, Craddock connected with
an open Katie Plyler sitting on the far post to tip in the go-ahead goal, 2-1,
With 17 to play, Princeton set up another opportunity in
front of the Tar Heel goal. Sydney Kirby dished the ball to a charging Evans
from the left side, but Evans was unable to redirect the ball into the cage.
After two close calls, Evans finally was there to put in a
goal in the 56th minute. Kirby fed the ball to Sharkey on the right side. She
passed it back to Kirby and her first attempt was deflected off Ammer's pads.
The ball bounced to the left side and Evans was there to tap in the tying goal.
A reenergized Princeton side continued to penetrate the Tar
Heel circle, looking for the elusive advantage. At 59:52, Michelle Cesan
dribbled the ball into the right side of the circle. Like in the semifinals,
she was tackled to the right of the cage and the Tigers were awarded a penalty
stroke. Junior Bird went to the chalk mark and sailed it in to the right side
to give Princeton a 3-2 lead. The stroke was the first of the season for her
and the Tigers conclude the year going a perfect 4-for-4 on strokes.
With less than a minute to play, UNC took a final penalty
corner and the ball would be sent in high and wide. The clock then ticked to
00:00 and a jubilant Princeton side rushed the field celebrating.
North Carolina held advantages in shots (13-11) and saves
(7-6), but Princeton had a 10-9 differential on shots on frame.
The Tigers have won the first NCAA national championship at
Princeton since women's rowing in 2010.
NCAA DIVISION I FIELD HOCKEY ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
Lauren Brooks (Syracuse)
Megan Frazer (Maryland), Jill Witmer (Maryland)
Charlotte Craddock (North Carolina), Caitlin Van Sickle (North Carolina), Emily Wold (North Carolina)
Kathleen Sharkey (Princeton), Katie Reinprecht (Princeton), Julia Reinprecht (Princeton), Michelle Cesan (Princeton), Christina Maida (Princeton)