Coming Off Trip to NCAA Quarters in 2015, PU Women’s Lax Looking to Take Next Step
GOAL-ORIENTED: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Olivia Hompe heads to goal in a game last season. Junior star and co-captain Hompe, who tallied 70 points on a team-high 54 goals and 16 assists last season, figures to be Princeton’s go-to scorer this spring. The 12th-ranked Tigers open their season by hosting No. 5 Virginia (1-0) on February 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
Over the last few seasons, the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team has been trending up.
In 2013, Princeton went 10-7 and made the first round of the NCAA tournament. A year later, the Tigers improved to 12-7 and advanced to the second round of the NCAAs. In 2015, Princeton posted a 16-4 record and got to the national quarterfinals.
As longtime Tiger head coach Chris Sailer looks ahead to starting the 2016 season by hosting No. 5 Virginia (1-0) on February 20, she is looking for Princeton to keep the trend going.
“I think the motivation, the confidence, is really running high,” said Sailer, whose team is currently ranked 12th in the Inside Lacrosse Women’s Lacrosse national poll.
“These kids had a great season last year. We have been elevating every year for the last three years so that is our expectation, getting better and better. It is a great group and they have been working hard all year long. They have high goals for themselves and we are excited to get the season underway.”
With the graduation of the two Erins, Erin Slifer (41 goals and 30 assists in 2015) and Erin McMunn (29 goals, 19 assists), Sailer will be relying on junior star and co-captain Olivia Hompe to trigger the Tiger attack.
“Olivia had a great year last year and we will expect her to have another good one this year,” said Sailer of Hompe, who tallied 70 points on a team-high 54 goals and 16 assists last season.
“She will be a marked person. I think this year will be a little different for her because she is the go-to player on offense in terms of how she is perceived. She is going to be drawing a lot of face guards, tight marks, and double teams so dealing with that will be a little bit of a new situation for her. She is already showing that she can handle that.”
Senior Anya Gersoff (22 goals, 6 assists in 2015), senior Stephanie Paloscio (21 goals, 21 assists), sophomore Abby Finkelston (9 goals, 2 assists), and sophomore Colby Chanenchuk (1 goal) figure to be key offensive players.
“Anya is back and she is playing more of an attack position for us along with Steph Paloscio, who is a senior and was a full time player for us last year,” said Sailer.
“Abby Finkelston is back as a sophomore and is a really smart player. Colby Chanenchuk has been playing crease attack with Olivia and those two have developed really good teamwork; they look for each other really well. Colby has great eyes. She can set up plays and those two are developing a nice feel for each other around the cage.”
The return of junior Alexandra Bruno after a year away from school and the addition of freshman Allie Rogers gives the attack unit additional depth.
“Alex spent the fall readjusting to the team and the pace of the game and getting herself fully back in it but that kid has been a great player for her first two years so we are excited to have her back,” said Sailer of Bruno, who had 24 goals and 12 assists in 2014.
“Allie Rogers has been looking really good, she is an ankle breaker. She is so quick. You put that kid in the open field, she can dodge and she can finish so she gives us a nice look in terms of being a really explosive kid on the offensive unit.”
Youth will be served in the midfield as Princeton will be rotating two sophomores and two freshmen in two spots.
“One line is Ellie McNulty, a sophomore who was out with an injury all last year; she is looking great and doing really well in the draw and Kathryn Hallett, a freshman and an explosive kid,” said Sailer.
“Our other line is freshman Elizabeth George and sophomore Camille Sullivan (9 goals, 4 assists) who played for us last year as well. George is coming on, she has a great feel for the game.”
Senior star and captain Liz Bannantine (14 groundballs and 14 caused turnovers in 2015) has been a great leader for the Princeton defense.
“LB is a two-time captain for us, she is just doing a tremendous job once again leading the defensive unit,” asserted Sailer.
“Our defensive unit is all returning from last year. It is fantastic to have all of that experience back. I think they are going to be a strength for us this year.
The unit features a strong core of veterans with junior Amanda Leavell, junior Madeline Rodriguez, and senior Maddy Lynch in addition to Bannantine.
“The four of them are really developing into a great unit. I think we will be even more aggressive and have a higher percentage of takeaways than we did last year. The kids are really stretching themselves, trying to create interceptions and double teams. I think our defense will be a really great unit.”
The defense will be bolstered by two promising freshmen, Alex Argo and Nonie Andersen.
“Alex Argo plays so smart and is playing very well as part of the team defense out there,” added Sailer.
“Nonie Anderson is the fastest kid on the team. She is still learning the systems and the conditioning but she is just lightning fast so she will help tremendously in the transition game.”
At goalie, junior Ellie DeGarmo (8.71 goals against in 2015) is coming off a tremendous season.
“Ellie is playing very, very well; she had such a great season last year,” said Sailer.
“She is confident in the cage, she is seeing and moving to the ball well. I think she is going to have another really solid year. Mary Kate McDonough was backup last year and again this year has played incredibly well during preseason so we feel very confident in her too.”
Sailer is confident that the Princeton offense can make up for the loss of Slifer and McMunn.
“I think our attack really being able to finish is key,” said Sailer. “We lost a huge amount of our scoring so it is about having other kids being comfortable filling those roles. I think we are really going to be balanced offensively. There is not a kid on the attack unit who can’t put the ball in the net. I think that is going to be helpful for us.”
The Tigers also need to develop a comfort level with draws. “I think draw controls are always huge in lacrosse, giving you extra possession,” said Sailer.
“Slifer took the majority of our draws last year. We have four kids who we can use, we have George, McNulty, two of our middies, and we have Hompe, who took a fair number last year as well, and Anya Gersoff.”
Princeton faces a huge challenge in its opener, hosting a Virginia squad that is coming off an impressive 10-8 win over perennial power Northwestern last week.
“We play such a hard schedule right out of the gate, opening with Virginia,” said Sailer.
“It is about being ready to compete. We are not going to be our finished product three weeks in but we need to be good enough all over the field and in our systems to be able to compete at a high level in that first game as we continue to develop. Virginia is always very athletic, and very fast. They have great attackers, they are really good on the draw. Last year they gave us fits on the draw and in transition so that is going to be a focus for us in the coming week.”