Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 11
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
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SHINING STEELE: Princeton University women’s lacrosse senior attacker Sarah Steele looks for an opening in recent action. Last Saturday, Steele scored three goals to help No. 7 Princeton edge 16th-ranked Penn State 9-7 and improve to 3-1. It was the second straight hat trick for Steele, who now has nine points on the season with seven goals and two assists. The Tigers will look to keep on the winning track when they head south to play at No. 16 James Madison on March 18 and at No. 7 Virginia on March 21.

With Senior Steele Shining on Attack, Tiger Women’s Lax Edges Penn State

Bill Alden

Over her first three seasons on the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team, Sarah Steele was a member of the supporting cast.

The 5’6 attacker from Longmeadow, Mass. scored a grand total of nine goals and had no starts in her career coming into this spring.

But with graduation opening some spots up front for Princeton, Steele was primed to assume a leading role in her final college campaign.

“Last year, we had a ton of attackers and this year we are not quite as attack heavy,” said Steele, a soccer and lacrosse All-American during her high school career at Loomis Chaffee. “It has really given me an opportunity to step up.”

Steele has taken advantage of that opportunity, scoring three goals in a 13-12 loss to No. 4 Duke on March 7 and then producing another hat trick last Saturday to help seventh-ranked Princeton pull out a 9-7 win over No. 16 Penn State.

For Steele, the performance in the defeat to Duke raised her comfort level on the field.

“Coming off of the last game, I had a lot of confidence,” said Steele. “Now I have the mentality that I have nothing to lose and I am just going to go in and make a difference. It’s worked.”

Penn State’s smothering defense forced Princeton to work hard. “I think they were really aggressive out on us,” said Steele. “They pressured us hard which is something we haven’t seen a lot of this year.”

The teams were tied 3-3 at halftime and then Steele scored early in the second half to give Princeton a 4-3 lead. The Tigers extended the advantage to 6-4 before Penn State scored twice to knot the game at 6-6 with 11:55 remaining in regulation.

At that point, the Tigers called a timeout to regroup. “The message was move the ball, be confident, and take good options,” recalled Steele.

“We had a play that we were going to do and we were able to run it and get up and from there, our confidence was boosted.”

Steele ended up scoring the final goal of the contest to give the Tigers a little insurance down the stretch as they improved to 3-1 on the season.

“We really moved the ball well and I had a lot of opportunities that I could’ve finished on and I didn’t,” acknowledged Steele. “I was happy that I saw an opening and took it and it worked.”

Princeton head coach Chris Sailer likes the good work she has been getting from Steele so far this season.

“Sarah is a great shooter, she would probably tell you she should have had two more today,” said Sailer of Steele, who now has nine points on the season with seven goals and two assists.

“She is a crafty kid, a quick kid. This is clearly her best year; she has been stepping up and doing well for us. She is taking the load off of a lot of other people. Having her put a few in for us is really helpful.”

Princeton needed some help to get going against Penn State as the Tigers squandered several scoring opportunities in the first half.

“It is always a tough week for us with midterms and the kids have a lot of papers due,” said Sailer, who got two goals from Kristin Morrison in the win with Holly McGarvie, Kristin Schwab, Christine Casaceli, and Lizzy Drumm adding one apiece.

“I think you could see we looked heavy-legged. We weren’t anticipating well in the beginning. Once we settled in and got into the game, we started winning a lot of overthrows and ground balls. I think that really made a difference for us.”

The play of sophomore goalie Erin Tochihara made a big difference for Princeton as she recorded 13 saves on the day, several of them in point blank situations.

“Erin really did bail us out, she had nine first half saves when they were coming down and getting a lot of shots off,” said Sailer of Tochihara, who was later named the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week for her performance.

“We were a little slow to see things defensively and she really saved us with her first half.”

Coming off the disappointing setback at Duke, the Tigers were thrilled to earn a win over a Penn State program that has caused plenty of problems for Princeton over the years.

“It was important getting the win; we were both in similar situations,” said Sailer.

“They had a big lead on Virginia and lost in overtime so we were both coming off huge games that we could’ve won. We knew it was going to be a battle today. I am really happy that we pulled it out. We had such great games with them over the years. It is always a pretty intense, pretty emotional game for both teams.”

Sailer is looking for the Tigers to keep up the intensity as they head south over spring break to play at No. 16 James Madison on March 18 and at No. 7 Virginia on March 21.

“I am looking forward to the week,” said Sailer. “It will be nice to be away with the team; to get a little team time will be good.”

In Steele’s view, the team’ performance in the defeat at Duke bodes well for the trip to Virginia and beyond.

“Duke was definitely a tough game for us but the positive about it was that we played awesome and we played as a team,” maintained Steele.

“We knew that if we could put that effort out on the field and a few calls and a few passes gone our way, we could beat anyone.”

And if Steele keeps thriving in her leading role, Princeton will be tough for anyone to beat.

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