The first big surprise of the DI season? The Princeton Tigers. It’s not entirely shocking they’re 2-0, but the fact that they beat Harvard and Yale by a combined score of 86-12 is.
Princeton went 0-6 in Ivy League play last fall, but their last three losses came by seven points or less, signaling improvement, but could a turnaround of this proportion be expected?
“I think that would be very presumptuous of us to think that,” said Princeton coach Richard Lopacki.
“To be honest, we’ve thought less about anybody and more about what we need to do, so we try to focus on what we try to do and take each game as it comes.”
The Tigers have taken a back-to-the-basics approach, which Lopacki credits for the turnaround.
“We’ve worked much more on core building blocks, and we believe if we do that and everybody is accountable for their areas of responsibility, then whatever results come will hopefully come, but to be honest, we’re not focusing on beating teams. We’re focusing on our responsibilities and making sure we get better with every game.”
Lopacki says the commitment of his players, not a batch of new talent, is also at play.
“We haven’t got a massive influx of anybody new. There’s nobody who’s playing who hasn’t played on the A side. It’s just we’ve moved a few players around and they’re sort of in different positions,” he said.
“The students work very hard over the summer, so they invested a lot of time in coming back to the university in reasonably good shape, which is fantastic.”
Princeton’s last win over Harvard came in 2004, before any of the current players graduated high school.
“They’re a great team. I have enormous respect for David Gonzales and everything he’s built at Harvard. I thought they were a very good team yesterday,” said Lopacki. “They actually taught us a lot, because we try to learn something from every team we play, and Harvard taught us a great deal in terms of what we can get better at.”
The Ivy season isn’t a long one, just five weeks from start to finish. But the dream of a championship could be over before the Tigers have time to enjoy it if they let their egos inflate. However, Lopacki is standing on guard with a needle to pop any premature sense of accomplishment.
“Hopefully we’re humble enough to know that any one of our teams can have a reasonably good day at the office, but there’s no guarantee for anything,” he said.
“We fully know we have earned absolutely nothing so far. Everything moving forward, the hard work that we have to put in this week to keep getting better, we’re going to keep focused on improving on the small things, the basics. What will happen in the future is very much in the future.”