Coaches Corner with Jim Barlow
The 2010 Princeton Men’s soccer team was the first in Ivy League history to go undefeated in conference play, and broke a consecutive wins record that had stood for 90 years. The PVC News chatted with Head Coach Jim Barlow about these and other accomplishments.
PVC News: What were your expectations for this year's team at the beginning of the season?
Jim Barlow: After our strong finish and NCAA bid last year, and with a large group of starters returning, we all felt that we had the potential for something special this year, and we were excited to see if we could build off the success of 2009. In terms of our expectations, we never look too far ahead -- we want to win our next game and try to keep our focus on the next game. The guys did a great job of that this year.
PVCN: You had ten seniors on this year’s squad. How much of a factor did their leadership play in your success this season? Was there a development process in that regard as the year went on?
JB: If you look at Ivy League men’s soccer over the years, it is often the case that the champion has a great senior class. This was the case in 2010. And I don’t mean “great” just on the field, but off the field as well. Some of our seniors were impact players on the field, others were tremendous leaders, others set the tone in training every day, and some made the reserve team better. We had a large roster this year (31 players) and the seniors made sure that we were all on the same page and fighting for the same things. We are really going to miss this class.
PVCN: Your team was the first to go undefeated for the year in Ivy League Men’s Soccer history (7-0-0). Was there any one moment (on or off the field) when you knew that this year’s team could accomplish some really special things?
JB: The turning point in the season came at halftime of the Richmond game. We were 1-3-1 at the time, and we were losing at home 1-0 at the half. The guys came out after halftime with a different intensity, a different mentality. We scored three times in the second half, won 3-1, and never looked back from that moment. Our confidence and our play improved and when we hit the Ivy League schedule we were ready. When we beat Dartmouth and Brown 3-0 on back-to-back weekends to start the league, we all knew we could win the championship.
PVCN: Your twelve-game winning streak was the longest in Princeton Men’s Soccer history (besting 11-game streaks from 1919-20 and 1926-27). What are some of the critical success factors that go in to a streak of that length?
JB: One of the biggest factors is staying healthy, and after several injuries early in the season we were almost injury-free for the last two-thirds of the season. Credit goes to our trainer Russ Steves for all he does to help keep the guys healthy. We also found ways to win a few games even when we weren’t necessarily at our best. We scored goals in many different ways this year – from the run of play, on counters, on restarts, long throw-ins, etc., and we scored some huge goals at key moments. As our confidence grew, we knew we could find a way to win regardless of the circumstances. Of course, to win 12 straight you need a little luck along the way.
PVCN: Antoine Hoppenot, who will be a senior next year, was this year’s Ivy League Player of the Year and is a semifinalist for intercollegiate soccer’s highest honor, the Hermann Trophy. Could you share some insight into his game with our readers?
JB: Antoine is a unique player in that he has the ability to break down and get behind a defense with his incredible speed and dribbling skill. Teams have to worry about Antoine, and often he is double or triple-teamed and he is also fouled a lot. In addition to setting up and scoring goals for us, he also draws free kicks, corner kicks, throw-ins, etc. He has the ability to change a game with one play, and he did that several times this fall. In the beginning of the season, we probably relied on Antoine too much and our attack was somewhat predictable. As we improved, however, we had more balance in our attack and many players set up and scored goals.
PVCN: Princeton prides itself on its well-rounded student-athlete experience. What are some of the activities that your players be undertaking this offseason?
JB: We have a great group of guys who are interested and involved in many activities on and off campus. We also have a wide range of academic programs represented on our team. For the second spring in a row, we will have at least one team member travel abroad for the semester to study and conduct research. Others are getting involved in community service activities. Recently some of our players went to the Johnson Park School for “Reading with the Tigers” day. They will participate in the “communities of light” program that will raise awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault and some of the programs and services available to victims. Over the holidays, they will participate in the annual “Toys for Tots” program, and they volunteer for soccer clinics at “communiversity” and other town-gown functions.