Last fall, Anya Gersoff did her best to thwart shooters as a goalie for the Princeton University field hockey team.
Freshman Gersoff yielded only one goal in a back-up role for the national champion Tigers.
This spring, Gersoff has shed her pads and is trying to beat goalies as an attacker for the Princeton women’s lacrosse team.
Last Saturday, Gersoff was primed to make her lax debut as Princeton hosted Villanova in its season opener.
“It was so exciting to get out there,” said Gersoff, noting that her field hockey experience last fall helped calm her nerves.
Gersoff ended up making an exciting debut, scoring two goals to help the Tigers pull away to a 10-5 win over the Wildcats.
In reflecting on her effort, Gersoff said that playing goalie in the fall helps her be a savvy scorer in the spring.
“You kind of know what a goalie doesn’t like to see,” said Gersoff. “When I am playing goalie I always hate it when there is a shooter and they look at you and you are like oh no so there is that little bit of intimidation stuff.”
The Tigers had a little trouble with their shooting in the first half as they led just 3-0 despite having piled up 15 shots.
“We didn’t play as well as we would have liked to the whole game,” said Gersoff. “In the first half, our shooting was a little rough but we will get better.” Early in the second half, Villanova drew to within 3-2 and Princeton responded with its best stretch of the contest, going on a 6-1 run to seize control.
“We just have so many great leaders on this team and they made it so we should step up,” said Gersoff, reflecting on Princeton’s second half surge.
“We just followed suit and we were able to put it in the back of the net a few times.”
Gersoff got into the act, scoring two straight goals in that run. Her first career goal put the Tigers up 8-3.
“I remember I picked up the ball and I had an open lane and I went to goal,” said Gersoff, recalling her initial college tally. “I was like wow I scored.”
The Tiger freshmen accounted for six of Princeton’s 10 goals as Gersoff’s classmates Alex Bruno and Stephanie Paloscio also scored two apiece.
“We have always gotten along well as a freshman class,” said Gersoff. “I knew that there was something special about us when we came in.”
Not being available to take part in the lacrosse fall training has required a special effort on Gersoff’s part this spring.
“It was a really hard adjustment,” said Gersoff. “I figured it out eventually, it is going OK. It is still an adjustment.”
Princeton head coach Chris Sailer, for her part, is confident her team figured some things out as it overcame a sluggish start.
“I think we definitely had the jitters a little bit,” said Sailer. “We didn’t look like we have been scrimmaging and practicing. I think it was just a little bit of that first game jitters that hopefully we worked out and we’ll come out a little stronger next time.”
Sailer liked her team’s strong play as it pulled away from Villanova in the second half.
“I think our kids knew that we had to make things happen so we got some turnovers in transition,” said Sailer. “We had some fast breaks, we had some nice connections in the attack end.”
The production of Gersoff and classmates Bruno and Paloscio was a nice plus for the Tigers.
“They really did lead the way finishing but the other kids did a lot between the lines,” said Sailer, referring to the trio of freshmen.
“I was really pleased, those three are all just smart shooters and really strong players so it was great to see them have such a great day on their first day out.”
Princeton got some smart play from such veteran performers as junior midfielder Sarah Lloyd and senior defender Caroline Rehfuss.
“I thought Sarah Lloyd did a really good job on the draw,” asserted Sailer.
“I thought Rehfuss did really well, she had four caused turnovers and No. 40 (Villanova offensive star Jackie Froccaro) had just one goal.”
With senior star attacker Jaci Gassaway sidelined due to a knee injury, the Tigers are going to need to do a better job of communicating on offense.
“We have to be confident in ourselves,” added Sailer, whose team plays at Georgetown on March 1 before hosting Southern California on March 3.
“We need more vocal leadership from our upperclassmen on the field. We didn’t have anyone in the attack end who was settling people and being that voice down there. Jaci was that person for us; we have got to work through that. It was an ugly win but we will take the ‘w’ to start the season.”
Gersoff, for her part, believes Princeton can build on its positive start. “It is always great to get a win in the first game of the season,” said Gersoff.
“We have been playing really well in our scrimmages and practices. We can just step it up a little more all over the field.”