Monday, December 22, 2008

A New Home - And An Addition To The Banners

Jim Barlow, the men's soccer coach at Princeton, liked to stand near the top of the steps by the concession stand at Roberts Stadium during women's games, so he could hear the responses of people who saw the new soccer facility for the first time. The reviews were unanimous; there can be no doubt that Roberts Stadium is a spectacular place to watch a game.

Banners marking the accomplishments of the men's and women's teams hang at the opposite end from where Barlow liked to stand. Because of the success of the women's team this past season, the banner marked "Ivy League Championships" needs to add a "2008" under the other seasons. has named this the seventh-best event of the 2008 Princeton athletic year.

Princeton's women's soccer team reached the NCAA Final Four in 2004, something no other Ivy team has ever duplicated. It's also the only time an Ivy school has reached the Final Four of a 64-team NCAA tournament.

In many ways, the crowds that overflowed Lourie-Love Field during the four home NCAA games Princeton played that year opened the door for the new facility. University President Shirley Tilghman said as much during the Roberts Stadium ceremonies.

Julie Shackford was named Division I Coach of the Year in 2004 by the NSCAA. Awards like that often start at the championship and work backwards until they come to the first coach who seemed like a longshot at the beginning of the year.

Shackford's 2004 team was loaded with talent from top to bottom; her 2008 team was a solid one, but she and assistant coaches Scott Champ, Ron Celestin, Julio Vacacela and Ashley Beyers did a tremendous job of molding the team into one that won basically every important close game it played.

This was true of opening day at the new stadium, when Sarah Peteraf and Lisa Chinn scored late in the second half to erase a deficit for a 2-1 win over Boston University. It kept going all year, culminating in the final game of the regular season, when Taylor Numann headed in a ball right in front of all those banners in the second overtime against Penn to give the Tigers another Ivy title.

A new stadium and an Ivy title? The 2008 soccer season will be remembered for being special, and in many ways as special as the one four years before it.

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