Displaying Its Prowess at Both Ends of the Field, Tiger Women’s Lax Advances to NCAA Quarters
In putting together a six-game winning streak heading into the start of NCAA tournament last weekend, the Princeton University women’s lacrosse had demonstrated that it could excel at both ends in the field.
At the Ivy League tournament over the first weekend of May, host Princeton stifled Harvard 15-8 in the semis before outscoring Penn 14-11 in the championship game.
Playing at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium on the campus of Stony Brook Brook University to start NCAA play, the Tigers showed their versatility once again, rolling past Fairfield 18-8 in a first round contest on Friday before shutting down sixth-seeded and host Stony Brook 8-4 two days later to earn a spot in the NCAA quarterfinals.
Princeton, now 16-3, will play at third-seeded Duke (15-4) on May 16 in the quarters with the winner advancing to the NCAA Final Four in Philadelphia, where the semis are slated for May 22 at PPL Park.
“The attack really carried us against Fairfield; to get 18 goals in an NCAA tournament game is a lot of goals,” said Princeton head coach Chris Sailer, who has guided Princeton to three national titles in her Hall of Fame tenure. “The defense dominated on Sunday.”
It took a little while for Princeton to get rolling in the win over Fairfield as the Tigers were clinging to a 10-7 lead at halftime before outscoring the Stags 8-1 over the final 30 minutes of the contest.
“I think they came out hard, winning ground balls and draws,” said Sailer, who got a career-high three goals from sophomore Lauren Steidl in the win over the Stags with sophomore standout Olivia Hompe tallying a game-high four and senior Erin McMunn adding three.
“We had to match their intensity and play our game better. We just had to turn it around and we did just that.”
Sailer knew that Princeton faced a hard challenge in the Round of 16, taking on host Stony Brook, who brought at 18-1 record and a seven-game winning streak into the contest.
“They are a great team, they only had one loss and a lot of great wins over teams like Florida and Northwestern,” said Sailer of the Seawolves who were averaging 12.1 goals a contest.
“They had great sticks, they had an incredible attack, deadly off cuts and screens. They are very physical and scrappy and play a different kind of zone defense with a rover.”
Princeton jumped out to a 2-0 lead to gain early momentum and then took control of the game in the second half as it broke open a 3-3 game by outscoring Stony Brook 5-1. Freshman Abby Finkelston scored a career-high four goals to lead the Tigers’ attack.
“They expected to advance deep in the tournament and it was important for us to assert ourselves early and get that lead,” said Sailer.
“It took us a little while to figure out how to be effective on offense. We had to change up some things. We had some great ball movement and Finkelston was finishing well.”
The Tiger defense was effective all game long, holding the high-powered Seawolves to 12 shots with sophomore goalie Ellie DeGarmo making 12 saves.
It was a great defensive effort; to hold a team like that to four goals on their home field is quite a feat,” asserted Sailer whose team had a 15-11 edge in ground balls in the afternoon and won 8-of-13 draw controls.
“Jen Cook (assistant coach) did an awesome job with her defensive scout and game plan. The girls executed things beautifully, they knew what Stony Book Brook was going to do before they did it.
Advancing to the NCAA quarters for the first time since 2011 is a nice feat as well for Princeton.
“It is really exciting for the program,” said Sailer. “Now that the bracket has expanded to 28 teams, you have to win two games and beat a top 8 seed to make it the quarters so it says a lot about the way we are playing right now. We are performing at a high level. We are excited to be back and we think we can play with anybody.”
While Princeton has plenty of respect for powerful Duke, Sailer is excited about her team’s prospects in the matchup.
“They have had a great year; they have been a consistently strong team,” said Sailer of the Blue Devils.
“They have gone through the ACC so they have been playing strong teams game in, game out. We are excited to go down there and play Princeton lacrosse. The girls are dialed in and focused, they are executing what we tell them. We have a nice flow on offense and the defense is playing really well. Ellie DeGarmo has been great in the cage.”