Nov. 15, 2009

Courtesy of Princeton Athletics

PRINCETON -- The fourth-ranked Princeton field hockey team used a five-goal second half to rally and defeat eighth-ranked Syracuse 7-3 and advance to the program's fifth NCAA Field Hockey final four.

Princeton sophomore Kathleen Sharkey scored four goals to lead all players including three straight to start the second half and put Princeton ahead. Her four-goal performance was one shy of the NCAA Tournament record for goals in a tournament game. Her four goals also tied a Princeton record for goals in a game. Senior Kaitlin Donovan also added two goals in the win and freshman Michelle Cesan had a goal and two assists.

The Tigers and Syracuse played a back-and-forth first half that saw Princeton take leads of 1-0 and 2-1 and the Orange grab a 3-2 lead five minutes before halftime.

Donovan opened the scoring three minutes into the game by putting in a rebound of her own shot. The Orange responded less than two minutes later to even the score when Lindsey Conrad scored from a sharp angle along the left side.

Princeton regained the lead in the 15th minute when Sharkey scored her first of the game and 18th of the season, dribbling into the arc and putting a shot through the legs of Syracuse goalkeeper Leann Stiver.

The Tigers held the lead until the 28th minute when Amy Kee evened the score with a high shot on a direct corner. Syracuse then took a one-goal lead three minutes later when Martina Loncarica scored on a quick shot from the right side that was tucked inside the far post.

Syracuse held the lead going into halftime, although Princeton had a goal waved off following a corner with no time remaining in the first half because of a high hit. Syracuse held a 9-8 edge in shots in the first half.

Following an even first half, the second half was all Tigers as Princeton turned it on, outshooting Syracuse 15-3 in the half and scoring five times to gain a lead and the win. Princeton's five goals tied for the second highest single half goal total in NCAA Tournament history.

Princeton drew even at 3-3 five minutes into the second half when Sharkey shoved a loose ball into the Orange goal after a Tiger crossing pass was blocked by a Syracuse defender. Three minutes later, Sharkey found the back of the net again off a turnaround shot after Cesan fed her a pass across the circle. Sharkey's fourth goal came in the 50th minute when she scored on a direct corner after Cesan pushed and junior Alexandra Douwes stopped.

Princeton added two more goals in the final 12 minutes of the game. First Donovan scored her second of the game off a pass from freshman Julia Reinprecht as Donovan put a shot over the diving Syracuse goalkeeper. Then with four minutes remaining, Cesan scored as her crossing pass bounced off a Syracuse defender and into the goal.

Princeton junior goalkeeper Jennifer King made four saves for the win, while Stiver took the loss with four goals allowed one save. Ashleigh McGowan made five saves after entering the game in the 43rd minute.

Princeton outshot Syracuse 23-12 and outcornered the Orange 6-3.

The win sends Princeton to its fifth NCAA final four and first since the 2001 season. Princeton has advanced to the championship game in two of its four previous appearances.

The Tigers will meet top-ranked Maryland in the semifinals next Friday afternoon at 2 p.m. The final four is being held at Wake Forest.