PRINCETON, N.J. — Two years ago, Princeton looked on as the Penn women’s soccer team celebrated an Ivy League championship on the Tigers’ home turf. The Quakers had denied Princeton the conference title after playing to a 0-0 draw.
But history was not meant to repeat itself as the Red and Blue fell Saturday evening to the Tigers, 4-2, at Roberts Stadium. With the victory, the Tigers captured the league crown outright as well as an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament.
Princeton (13-3-1, 7-0 Ivy) opened up a three-goal lead behind a hat trick from sophomore Lauren Lazo. Though it appeared her scores would go unanswered, Penn (9-6-1, 5-2) responded in the second half, as sophomore forward Clara Midgley netted her first two goals of the season in a nine-minute span to make the tally 3-2.
“They’ve got a never-say-die attitude,” coach Darren Ambrose said. “They’ve found ways to win games, and this one — they didn’t win it, but they found a way to get back into it.”
The Tigers finally put to rest the Quakers’ comeback chances in the 84th minute when Caitlin Blosser converted a loose ball for her fifth goal of the year.
Princeton’s squad featured an experienced group of eight seniors and six juniors — none more important than senior Jen Hoy, who has netted 17 goals in as many games and will almost certainly receive the Ivy League Player of the Year award.
“She’s tough to mark with one player. We had to commit two and three players to marking her, and even then, it’s a gamble,” Ambrose said. “She’s so good, and when she draws other players, she’s matured to the point where she can find someone else.”
Hoy threatened to use her speed to break away from the pack several times, and twice she drew attention from the Quakers’ defense just before dishing to Lazo for scores.
Hoy and Lazo represent the most potent offensive tandem in the conference this season, recording 27 goals combined. By comparison, the entire Penn team scored just 22 goals on the season.
A win would have guaranteed the Quakers a share of the conference championship, along with Princeton and Dartmouth. The Big Green required a Penn victory to capture a share of the title.
Although the Quakers fell to the Tigers, the match marked the third consecutive season Penn has faced Princeton in a game with Ivy League title implications.
“I told them not to be ashamed of playing in our fourth championship game in six years,” Ambrose said. “We will be back again … and I have no problem watching Princeton get the trophy. We did it here two years ago.”
After tallying four goals in her freshman campaign, Midgley had gone the entire 2012 season without a score, despite strong contributions to the Quakers’ offense. But Saturday night, she erupted for two scores when Penn needed them most.
Midgley’s goals came on crosses from Caroline Dwyer and Claire Walker that she headed into the net. After her first goal, Midgley remained a constant threat throughout the contest, and the Princeton defense strained to contain her presence in the middle.
“Obviously, I’m happy to score, but the entire team worked really hard,” Midgley said. “They were great services, and I was able to get my head on them.”
The match represented the last career game for Penn seniors Erin Beck, Alex Dayneka, Erin Thayer and Sarah Banks. The group will graduate having won more league matches than any class in program history.
The Quakers will certainly miss their senior class next year, but they will also return a strong contingent of players that can be expected to compete for an Ivy League title once again next season.
“Our junior class has played in three championship games, so next year I expect to be in another one,” Ambrose said.
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