(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)
NO GO: Princeton University women’s lacrosse senior co-captain and star defender Norris Novak, left, stymies an opponent in a game earlier this spring. The Tigers had trouble stopping their foes last week as they fell 18-9 to No. 5 Maryland last Wednesday and then dropped a 9-8 nailbiter at No. 8 Georgetown on Saturday. Princeton, now 12-4, will look to get back on the right track as it starts play in the NCAA tournament. The eighth-seeded Tigers host Vanderbilt on May 11 in the first round of the tourney.
It was an emotional moment when Norris Novak and her senior classmates on the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team were recognized before their home finale last Wednesday against Maryland.
Their smiles and hugs mixed with tears as the seniors and their parents were introduced to the Class of 1952 Stadium crowd on the program’s annual senior night.
“It was great to be honored, it was great to have a night like this to celebrate my class and everything we have done,” said co-captain and star defender Novak, who has earned All-American and All-Ivy League accolades in her career. “There were a lot of different emotions — sadness, happiness, anxiety, but anticipation.”
After the Maryland game, though, there were frowns and reddened eyes as the Tigers absorbed an 18-9 whipping at the hands of the fifth-ranked Terps.
There was more consternation three days later as Princeton fell 9-8 at Georgetown in the regular season finale to end the season with a 12-4 overall record.
Now the Tigers will try to summon some positive emotions as they start play in the NCAA. Princeton was seeded eighth in the tournament and will host Vanderbilt (13-5) in the opening round on May 11.
The winner of the the Princeton-Vanderbilt game will play the victor of the first-round game between top-seeded Northwestern and Notre Dame in a quarterfinal game on May 17.
In Novak’s view, the loss to Maryland taught Princeton some lessons it must apply if the Tigers are to advance in the national tourney and shake off a slump which has seen them lose four of their last six games after starting 10-0 and attaining the No. 2 ranking in the national polls.
“I think this game is a testament to the season, with every team we have played, you really can’t tell what is going to happen,” said Novak.
“I definitely think we can run with Maryland but this shows if we are not on our ‘A’ game the whole game, they are going to take it to you. I think that’s the way with a lot of teams. We’ve done it to other teams and teams have done it to us.”
Princeton head coach Chris Sailer acknowledged that Maryland took it to her squad.
“We got off to a pretty good start,” recalled Sailer. “We thought we were competing and then Maryland just turned it up three notches and we didn’t respond.”
The Tigers will need to respond if they are to top seventh-ranked Vanderbilt, a program they last faced in the 2004 NCAA semifinals when Princeton topped the Commodores 11-3 at Princeton Stadium.
“We have to be much more resilient and mentally tough,” said Sailer, who has led Princeton to 11 straight NCAA appearances and three national titles (1994, 2002, 2003). “We just need to play like we can and just do the little things correctly.”
Novak, for her part, thinks she and her classmates need to infuse the whole team with the emotions they are feeling as they look to wrap up their college careers in style.
“I think it’s just really important for us as a class to focus our team and use our emotions for benefit of the team to get everyone really motivated and focused,” asserted Novak.
“There is a lot on the line for us. We can really share that with everyone else to help motivate them and get them pumped up.”
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