On the road for its next five games, the field hockey team will travel down to College Park, Md., and Newark, Del., this weekend to face off against the No. 1 Maryland Terps and the University of Delaware Blue Hens. After shutting out Columbia 5-0 last Friday, Princeton (6-3 overall, 3-0 Ivy League) rose two spots to No. 9 this week. This win marked the Tigers’ 16th consecutive Ivy League victory. The only three losses that Princeton has suffered this season were to teams ranked No. 13 or higher at the time of the competition. Maryland is the third top-5 team Princeton will face off against this year. The Tigers have not lost to an unranked opponent since 2011, so they will certainly be out for a victory against Delaware on Sunday.
“It’s always an advantage to play on your home turf and not have to take up a whole weekend traveling, but I think our team does a good job of staying focused on the task at hand no matter where we may be,” junior back Cassidy Arner said.
Friday night, the undefeated and top-ranked Terps (12-0 overall, 3-0 ACC) will be looking to get revenge on the Tigers. Last year, Princeton defeated Maryland 3-2 during the regular season and again by the same score in overtime at the NCAA semi-finals game to knock the Terps out of the tournament. However, Maryland leads the overall series against Princeton 16-6-1, so the game is bound to be exciting.
“This year’s team is completely new and separate from last year’s, so our wins over Maryland last year are out of sight and mind as we focus on what it is we need to bring and work on presently to achieve our goals,” Arner said.
“For the past three seasons, we have had to bring our best game to the field when playing Maryland, and this year will be no different,” senior back/midfielder Kelsey Byrne said. “We have not talked about the two wins last year — this is a new season. We are a different team and so are they.”
Momentum is in the Terps’ favor, with their win in a mid-week game against Hofstra 6-0. Leading the charge offensively for Maryland are Jill Witmer (10 goals) and Anna Dessoye (seven goals). Natalie Hunter, the primary goalkeeper for the Terps, has recorded 38 saves and only 10 goals against.
“As usual, we’re very excited to play against Maryland,” Arner said. “They’re a great team, and it has always been a tough and exciting matchup. Practice has been high-intensity, but that is something we try to bring no matter who our upcoming opponent is.”
“In preparation, we’ve been working on our transition from attack and defense this week since we know that Maryland is a fast team,” Byrne said.
Delaware (8-3 overall, 2-0 CAA) will host the Tigers on Sunday afternoon for the teams’ second game of the weekend. While Princeton will be battling Maryland on Friday night, the Blue Hens will be playing Towson. Last year, the Tigers handily beat Delaware 10-2, but overall the teams are tied 11-11-3 all-time.
“Delaware is definitely going to be a good competition this year,” Byrne said. “Over the past few weeks, we have been working on quick passing all over the field and finishing our scoring opportunities in the circle, and these will definitely be main focuses during the game. Hopefully, this will lead to a win!”
The Blue Hens are also coming into the weekend with positive momentum, with two recent wins. The offensive leader for Delaware is Michaela Patzner, who has netted 10 goals so far this season. The Tiger defense will have to make sure to keep her closely marked throughout the game so that she cannot capitalize on any easy-scoring opportunities. Protecting the goal for the Blue Hens is Sarah Scher, with 54 saves and 20 goals against this season.
“Tiger field hockey really tries to look at all of our opponents as equals,” Arner said. “Sometimes, it is hard to go into games and not think about the other team’s reputation, but we really stress the importance of the principles and mentality that we revolve our game around and implementing those well no matter who we are playing.”
Several players are leading the Tiger attack this season, making it difficult for their opponents’ defenders to know whom to focus on. Junior striker Allison Evans leads the team with seven goals and three assists, sophomore midfielder/back Teresa Benvenuti has six goals and four assists, senior midfielder/striker Michelle Cesan has two goals and five assists and senior midfielder Julia Reinprecht has added another three goals. Nationally, Princeton is ranked eighth in penalty corners per game, 12th in assists per game and 16th in points per game.
The Tigers recognize the extra difficulties that come with having only away games for the remainder of October but have learned to make the most of the opportunities that traveling affords the team.
“The most difficult part about playing on the road is getting the team’s energy up after sitting on a bus for a few hours,” Byrne said. “However, away games are also exciting because we’re traveling as a team, and they are a good opportunity for team-bonding. We also have a great support system from our parents, and they still throw a great tailgate for us after every away game!”