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REHAB PROJECT: Princeton University senior women’s lacrosse star Katie Lewis-Lamonica sprints up the field in action this spring. After tearing an ACL on April 5 in a win over Yale, Lewis-Lamonica rehabbed vigorously and made it back on the field for the NCAA tournament. Last Saturday, Lewis-Lamonica chipped in two goals but it wasn’t enough as eighth-seeded Princeton fell 18-11 at No. 1 Northwestern in the NCAA quarterfinals. Lewis-Lamonica, a former Lawrenceville School star, ended her Princeton career with 139 goals, seventh best in program history.

Tiger Women’s Lacrosse Can’t Buck Odds as it Falls to No. 1 Northwestern in NCAAs

Bill Alden

The odds were stacked against the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team as it headed out to the Chicago area to play Northwestern last Saturday in the NCAA quarterfinals.

In addition to having the home field advantage, the top-seeded Wildcats brought an 18-1 record into the game, having won the last three national titles and 80 of its last 83 games.

Eighth-seeded Princeton, meanwhile, came into the game with four losses in its last seven games, hampered by injuries to such key players as Katie Lewis-Lamonica, Marine Graham, and Kristin Schwab.

Form seemed to be holding as Northwestern jumped out to a 3-0 lead five minutes into the game.

But scoring three of the game’s next six goals, Princeton narrowed the gap to 6-3 and appeared to be building momentum.

The Wildcats, though, snuffed out Princeton’s hopes of an upset, winning five straight draw controls as they went on a 5-0 run to build an 11-3 lead by late in the first half.

Northwestern never looked back, rolling to an 18-11 win and a date in the NCAA semifinals against fourth-seeded Syracuse (18-2) this Friday at Towson University’s Johnny Unitas Stadium.

In assessing the defeat which left her squad with a final mark of 13-5, Princeton head coach Chris Sailer acknowledged that Northwestern is a special team.

“They have so many weapons, so many good athletes,” said Sailer, who has guided the Tigers to three national titles (1994, 2002, 2003) and 11 straight appearances in the NCAA tournament. “They are incredibly deep and they have great stick skills.”

When Princeton narrowed the gap to 6-3, Sailer thought her team might have the firepower to buck the odds.

“At that point, when we had the ball, we were able to do some damage,” said Sailer, whose team was outshot 28-23 in a game which saw Princeton get two goals apiece from Christine Casaceli, Holly McGarvie, and Lewis-Lamonica. “We were getting shots when we got in the offensive zone.”

While Princeton couldn’t slow the irrepressible Wildcats, Sailer liked the way her team battled to the final whistle as it outscored Northwestern 5-1 over the last 11 minutes of the game.

“With 15 minutes left, I called a timeout and told them this is what you are going to remember about the final game; they stepped it up,” said Sailer.

“Northwestern had trouble with our ride. I wish we had gotten more than four goals in that stretch; we were showing some life.”

Showing life in the face of adversity became a theme for the Tigers as they absorbed some knocks down the stretch of the season.

“We had some untimely injuries; we had key kids go down,” said Sailer. “We learned that we need better depth; that we can’t rely on the starting 12.”

Sailer credited her group of seniors with holding the team together as it dealt with the rash of injuries.

“It was more what they did off the field,” asserted Sailer, whose senior leaders included co-captains Ashley Amo and Norris Novak together with Lewis-Lamonica, Courtney Bird, and Allison Murray.

“They set the right tone with the work ethic, the right attitude and the right intensity. We saw a different intensity; the seniors were unified.”

Lewis-Lamonica showed a special intensity as she battled to make it back on the field after tearing her ACL in a win over Yale on April 5.

“It was amazing to see Lewie get back on the field,” said Sailer of the former Lawrenceville School star who ended her Princeton career with 139 goals, seventh best in program history. “She did some amazing things last Saturday with an ACL.”

Princeton should get some amazing things next spring from its stellar corps of juniors which features such standouts as McGarvie, Casaceli, Schwab, Graham, co-captain Katie Cox, All-Ivy defender Marie McKenna, Caity Manzo, and Sarah Steele.

“They are a tremendous group, we knew that when we recruited them,” said Sailer. “There are nine of them and they all play. We will have a lot of seniors on the field next year.”

But Princeton’s hopes of getting back to the Final Four for the first time since 2004 could well depend on its younger players.

“We need to get more out of our other classes,” maintained Sailer. “The key for us is how the freshmen and sophomores develop, we can’t just have one or two stars from each class.”

In any event, as Sailer looks back on this spring, she is proud of the class her team displayed in good times and bad.

“I will think of the spirit of this team and the great days of practice,” said Sailer.

“We were so good when we were playing well; we just need to get a little better at handling adversity.”

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