It didn’t take long for freshman forward Tyler Lussi to make an impact for the Princeton University women’s soccer team.
Playing in the season opener last Friday night against visiting Richmond, Lussi came off the bench and scored the first goal in the contest early in the second half, sparking the Tigers as they went on to a 2-0 victory.
“To get the first goal in the beginning of the second half was really nice,” said Lussi, a native of Lutherville, Md.
“It set the pace for the rest of the game and then Lauren Lazo got the goal right after me. It just settled us down.”
The Lazo-Lussi combination paid dividends two days later as Princeton topped Army 3-0 with junior Lazo scoring the first Tiger goal and Lussi chipping in the other two.
“We are definitely playing off of each other and we know where each other are on the field and we are making good runs,” said Lussi. “We are getting it done.”
Reflecting on her debut, Lussi didn’t see herself emerging as the team’s top finishing threat.
“I think I came out wanting to win the game and came out playing strong and hard and wanting to take shots, getting into the goal area,” said Lussi, who is believed to be the first Tiger freshman to score three goals in the first two games of the season since Linda DeBoer in 1982.
“It was really good. I thought my teammates did a really good job, they got me the ball and we just put it away.”
Lussi was happy with the way she put away her goals in the win over Army as she scored on a blast to the low corner in the first half and then deftly volleyed the ball over the Army goalie early in the second period for her other tally.
“Lauren and I were both right there but I hit it nice and hard on the ground into the corner,” said Lussi, who won the Ivy League Player and Rookie of the Week honors for her big debut weekend.
“I wasn’t trying to go for power. I was going for pace and I put it away. On the second one, I was trying to lift it over nice and easy.”
For Lussi, sharp finishing is a staple of her game. “I have always had good accuracy on the ball,” said Lussi, who played for the Bethesda Soccer Club in Maryland in the Elite Clubs National League and entered Princeton ranked by Top Drawer Soccer as a four-star recruit and the No. 22 player in the Mid-Atlantic region. “When you are around the goal, just relaxing is always what I focus on.”
Princeton head coach Julie Shackford liked the way Lussi and Lazo worked together around the goal.
“They are both just dynamic,” said Shackford. “They are willing to take people on, they are also good at finishing. They are very similar. They are both workers. They both know how to find space for themselves. They know how to take people on when they are dribbling. They are really confident and they are both gamers. To me, both of Taylor’s goals were upper class goals, they were great finishes.”
The Tigers displayed class all over the field in the win over Army. “We played really good soccer today,” asserted Shackford.
“We let the ball do the work and the speed of play was really good. I think you always worry about that second game, especially with Army having been in camp for so long. I think that we hung in there for two-thirds of the game with our fitness level and I think we got fresh legs in, you saw maybe a little drop in experience but I think they all hung in.”
Princeton’s experienced defense, spearheaded by senior co-captains Diane Metcalf-Leggette and Gabriella Guzman together with junior Gabrielle Ragazzo, played well all weekend.
“They did great; Diane is a good organizer back there,” said Shackford.
“I actually thought Gabby Ragazzo was the star of the game, she kept getting herself into the attack and we were able to switch the point of attack and get her out on the left side. The decision-making was great. You can’t put a price tag on what Guzman does for us. She is literally a rock.”
Junior goalie Darcy Hargadon was a rock for Princeton as she posted consecutive shutouts and stamped herself as first among equals in the four-way competition for the starting job.
“She did well,” said Shackford of Hargadon. “I give her a lot of credit; she organized well. She made saves when she had to. I know there weren’t a lot. I think for the most part she did really well.”
Heartened by her team’s play on opening weekend, Shackford believes that even better things are on the horizon.
“You never know what is going to happen; I am really pleased with our start,” said Shackford, whose team plays at Seton Hall on September 12 and at Rutgers on September 15.
“Going forward, we need more focus on the speed of play. I think our soccer can be really exciting this year, once we get fitter. We can move the ball quicker and create a little more around the box. Their soccer was good today, I was impressed.”
Lussi, for her part, is excited to build on her superb opening weekend.
“I am trying to figure out each player’s position and what their strengths are,” said Lussi.
“I think that is coming together a little more but it is definitely good. Two wins is big. Going into Thursday’s game, I think we are really confident and ready to get another win.”