Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 28
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
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(Photo Courtesy of Duke Sports Information)

DEVIL OF A TIME: Mie Graham is handling defensive duties for the Duke University women’s lacrosse team. Graham, a rising junior defender and former Princeton High standout, helped the Blue Devils reach the NCAA Final 4 this spring.

PHS Alum Graham Thrives in Switch to Defense; Enjoying Role as Duke Women’s Lax Made Final 4

Bill Alden

During her stellar career with the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse program, Mie Graham stood out as a high-scoring midfielder.

Graham’s prolific offensive work sparked PHS to a 10-4 record in her senior campaign in 2009 and helped her land a spot with the Duke University women’s lax program.

But shortly after Graham began her college career, it became clear that she wasn’t going to be piling up many points for the Blue Devils.

“I think everyone struggles with the fact that in high school you are the big fish in the little pond and in college you are feeling like you are at the bottom of the totem pole,” said Graham.

“It seems like everybody is a midfielder and they look at your strengths and figure out where you can play. I was playing more of a defensive midfielder.”

Heading into her sophomore season, Graham fully committed herself to the defensive end of the field.

“There was an opening on defense because we lost some seniors there so I moved back there,” said the 5’8 Graham.

“I love playing defense now. It really is a unit; we need to trust each other. There is a core of four or five players and there is a solidarity. We are playing within a system and it is fun seeing how we work together.”

This spring, Graham and the Blue Devils had a lot of fun as they went 15-5 and advanced to the NCAA Final 4.

In Graham’s view, it was a collective solidarity that paved the way for Duke’s run to the national semis.

“The coaching staff and the seniors took it upon themselves to change the feeling around the team,” said Graham.

“They made the environment more welcoming and nurturing. The theme was ‘we believe.’ We worked hard on the mental game and we really came together. We were a much closer team, both between player and player and between the players and the coaching staff.”

That closeness helped the Blue Devils survive tough early tests in the NCAA tournament as they edged Penn 12-9 in the opening round and then won at fourth-seeded Florida 13-9 in the quarterfinals.

“We went into tournament mode, we were really ready to play,” said Graham, reflecting on the game with Penn, who had beaten Duke two weeks earlier in a regular season contest.

“We were done with school and we were able to hang out as a team and focus on lacrosse. The game with Florida was so exciting. They are an athletic and fast-paced team. We went into the game very prepared; there were no tricks or gimmicks, we were just playing our game. It was so exciting for the seniors to make the Final 4. It was a great accomplishment for them; it was one of the best post-game celebrations.”

Things didn’t go so well at Stony Brook in the Final 4 as Duke fell 14-8 to defending national champions and Atlantic Coast Conference foe Maryland.

“They are a tough team.” said Graham of the Terps. “They had a great group of seniors who gave them team leadership. They know how to win championships.”

In Graham’s view, the experience of going to the national semis could help Duke reach championship level.

“It was great for us to make it and play that game on Friday,” said Graham. “We understand the hype and what it is like playing in front of 7,000 fans. Everybody is so good and so competitive. We know what to expect next year and how to succeed in that situation.”

Graham, for her part, is poised to succeed as she heads into her junior year.

“Fall ball was a real help, we have a lot of scrimmages and everyone gets to play,” said Graham, who made four appearances as a freshmen and then got into 11 games in 2011.

“I was starting in scrimmages and playing full games. It really propelled me into the season. I have put in the work; I am confident in what’s going on. I am comfortable on the field. I can come off the bench and play smart.”

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