(Photo by Bill Allen/NJSportAction)
After the Princeton University women's lacrosse team absorbed a 13-goal beating at the hands of Virginia in late March, Tiger sophomore midfielder Katie Lewis-Lamonica sobbed uncontrollably outside the locker room.
Last Sunday, Lewis-Lamonica caused Virginia to shed some tears as she fired in four goals, including the game winner, to help Princeton shock the second-seeded Cavaliers 8-7 in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.
The victory advanced Princeton to a quarterfinal matchup at longtime rival Dartmouth, the tournament's No. 7 seed. The winner of that game faces the victor of Georgetown-Notre Dame game in the national semifinals on May 26 at Boston University's Nickerson Field.
In assessing her club's upset, Princeton head coach Chris Sailer said her club hit Klockner Field with something to prove. "I think we knew we were so much of a better team than we showed the first time we played them," said Sailer, whose club lost 16-3 to the Cavaliers in the teams' regular season meeting.
"We saw it as a challenge, a chance to prove something. In the NCAAs, it doesn't matter what your seed is or your record is, everybody is 0-0. Each of our players believed we could win."
The Tigers' self-belief was heightened in the wake of a special session last week with some of the program's alums who played on the 2002 and 2003 national championship teams.
"Some of the alums came down and scrimmaged with us on Wednesday," recalled Sailer. "Afterward they talked to the team about their NCAA experience. In 2003, no one believed we could win; it motivated and inspired the team."
The Tigers showed they had a special inspiration last Sunday right from the opening draw as they took a 2-0 lead with 17:53 left in the first half. Utilizing a patient, ball control approach, Princeton went into the halftime break with a 5-2 edge.
"We wanted to hold the ball in our end; we knew how good they were offensively," explained Sailer, whose team outshot Virginia 13-3 in the first half. "I think they were pretty taken aback when we got the early lead. We dominated the first half. Our defense was fantastic through the midfield. Lauren Vance did a great job on Tyler Leachman, she held her without a goal."
Despite Princeton's fast start, things did get dicey for the Tigers as Virginia fought back from a 7-2 second half deficit to knot the game at 7-7. Lewis-Lamonica, a former Lawrenceville School standout, came up big as she scored an unassisted goal with 2:14 left in the game to provide the margin of victory.
"Lewey had a great first half," said Sailer, who also got three goals from Ashley Amo and one from Allison Murray. "She got a little quiet in the second half. We ran some plays for her and she was finally able to get free."
With its matchup at Dartmouth this weekeend, Princeton has the chance to serve up a second helping of revenge as it fell 15-5 to the Big Green on April 22. The Ivy League rivals are meeting in the NCAA quarters for the second time in three years, with Princeton edging the Big Green 6-5 in overtime in the 2004 clash. Dartmouth has won the team's last two regular season meetings.
The Tigers are more than happy to once again assume the underdog role. "We're very motivated to get to the Final Four," asserted Sailer, who has a 4-0 record against Dartmouth in NCAA play and has guided Princeton to three NCAA crowns.
"If people want to keep taking us lightly that's to our advantage. The Virginia game inspired something in us; it showed what we can do when we compete hard and play together."
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