May 16, 2017

PU Women’s Lacrosse Wins Ivy Tournament, Earns No. 5 Seed and Home Contest in NCAAs

DOING GREAT: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Anna Doherty heads upfield in a game this spring. Last weekend, senior midfielder and tri-captain Doherty helped Princeton win the Ivy League tournament. Doherty scored four goals in a 17-8 win over Penn in the semis on Friday and then contributed two goals to help the Tigers defeat Cornell 12-9 in the championship game. Princeton, now 14-3 overall, is seeded fifth in the NCAA tournament and will host a second round contest on May 14 between the winner of the Cornell/Notre Dame first round game. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Over the course of the spring, a recurring theme for the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team has been an emphasis on getting off to a quick start.

In each of Princeton’s three losses this season (13-8 to Penn State on March 21, 18-12 to Maryland on April 12, and 17-12 to Penn on April 19), the Tigers dug an early hole that they couldn’t overcome.

So when Princeton headed up to Cornell last weekend for the Ivy League tournament, it was determined to get out of the gate quickly.

Mission accomplished as the Tigers jumped out to a 5-1 lead over Penn in the semifinals on Friday, never looking back on the way to 17-8 victory over the Quakers.

Two days later against host Cornell in the title game, Princeton built a 7-1 first half lead and held off the Big Red to earn a 12-9 victory and the league’s automatic berth to the upcoming NCAA tournament.

Princeton, now 14-3 overall, is seeded fifth in the NCAAs and will host a second round contest on May 14 between the winner of the Cornell/Notre Dame first round game.

Coming into the Ivy tourney, Tigers head coach Chris Sailer sensed that her players were primed to come up big.

“They have been very determined all year long; I think they really felt confident and they were really excited for the chance to get to play Penn again to begin with,” said Sailer. “We thought we could compete much better than we had the first time.”

The Tigers didn’t waste any time showing that determination against Penn, racing out to the early lead and then going on an 8-1 run to start the second half and put the game out of reach.

“We really did jump on them,” said Sailer. “The defense was just incredible in that game and the offense was coming through. It was a total team effort. We knew the scout. We knew their tendencies and we knew how we had to attack them offensively.”

Two days later, Princeton went on the attack again as it faced a Cornell squad it had beaten 12-11 in overtime on April 22.

“We had a great start in that game and got out to the big lead,” said Sailer. “Cornell is a great team and they are playing on their home field. Everyone knew what was on line in that game and we knew they weren’t going away. It was similar to the last time we played them. We had the lead on them and they kept coming back but this time we were able to shut the door and not let them capture a lead.”

As usual, the Tigers got great play from senior standouts, goalie Ellie DeGarmo and attacker Olivia Hompe. DeGarmo was named the tournament MVP after making 15 saves against Cornell, a single-game record in the Ivy tournament. She had a tournament record of 27, surpassing her own record of 20. Hompe, for her part, produced her fifth nine-point game of the season, scoring seven times and adding two assists. Her 18-point weekend set tournament records in points, goals (10) and assists (8) and she also had single-season game records in all three categories with nine points, seven goals and six assists.

“Both Ellie and Olivia set tournament records; Ellie broke her own record that she set in 2015,” said Sailer.

“Olivia is phenomenal. Everyone’s defense knows that you have got to try and stop that kid and she has got people hanging all over her and so much pressure. We are playing her in different places and in different ways. In the first game against Penn she had the six assists and then against Cornell, she comes through with so many goals. She finds a way to get it done and she is such an incredible team leader, organizing and directing the attack.”

In reflecting on the program’s third Ivy tournament title and second in three years, Sailer credited her seniors with setting a winning tone.

“I am so happy for this group, they set really high goals for themselves for his season,” said Sailer.

“Our seniors have just had phenomenal careers at Princeton. They have been a major part of the resurgence of the program. They have created an incredible culture, oriented towards performance and teamwork with confidence and determination. They set the standard in the classroom and on the field and as a coach it is just so exciting to see them have this kind of success for their senior year.”

Princeton’s success this spring helped it earn its first NCAA home game since 2009.

“To get the five seed is really phenomenal, we ended up with the No. 3 RPI in the country which I think speaks a lot about the strength of our schedule this year and how well we performed in that strength of schedule,” said Sailer.

“It is the highest seed we have gotten since 2003 so I think that is a fitting reward for these kids. To be able to have a bye in the first round is just great. It gives you more time to prepare and come in fresher to your game on Sunday.”

Having defeated Notre Dame (14-8 on March 11) and posting the two wins over Cornell, the Tigers will be thoroughly prepared for whomever they face on Sunday.

“Whether it is Notre Dame or Cornell, we have to go after it,” said Sailer. “You have just got to be as confident and as prepared as possible and willing to work absolutely your hardest to battle in every moment and get what you want.”

In Sailer’s view, her squad is going into the NCAAs on a roll. “I think we were not really finding our way in mid-April but we have really come on strong in our last three games,” said Sailer.

“Last weekend was phenomenal for us. We will be coming into the tournament with a lot of confidence and excitement for what lies ahead.”