With Anderson Bringing Speed, Tenacity, PU Women’s Lacrosse Enjoys 2-0 Week
NO STOPPING THEM: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Nonie Andersen races up the field in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior defender Andersen chipped in an assist as Princeton routed Columbia 19-1 in its Ivy League opener. The Tigers, now 3-1 overall and ranked eighth nationally, host No. 18 Stony Brook on March 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Justin Feil
Nonie Andersen always has done whatever the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team has asked of her.
“That should be the mind-set freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year,” said Tiger senior defender Andersen.
When she was a freshmen, Andersen’s speed and tenacity earned her some time on the field to face-guard. It was more of the same her sophomore year when she moved into the starting lineup. Last year, she had more of a leadership role on a defense that started three freshmen – Olivia Pugh, Mary Murphy and Marge Donovan – along with Alex Argo.
“Sophomore year, we had a lot of senior defenders, so I just face-guarded,” said Andersen. “Last year, I needed to fill a role where I was doing more for the unit and communicating and doing more for the defense rather than just focusing on myself and one girl.”
This spring, Andersen and Argo are back as senior leaders and are joined by a sophomore group with a full campaign of starting experience.
“We’re really excited for it,” said Andersen. “We don’t have to be in a lot of basic defensive sets learning. Now we can implement new defenses and put them in games. A big key to defense is trusting each other. It makes it better after playing a year together. We know each other so well. We communicate well.”
Andersen’s role has evolved over her career, and she’s happy to do all she can in her final season to give Princeton a formidable defense.
“I try to do a lot of talking and helping organize,” said Andersen. “Argo is an incredible lacrosse player and she actually does a lot of that. I try to take risks and push the pace and try to make their offense uncomfortable.”
Andersen helped Princeton bounce back from a 14-9 setback to Virginia on February 23 with dominant back-to-back performances. It started last Wednesday with a 21-10 win over No. 8 Penn State and continued with a 19-1 victory over Columbia on Saturday. Princeton led Penn State, 11-1, in the first half and had a 15-0 lead over Columbia at halftime.
“I think we realized we needed to practice with a sense of urgency and put ourselves in situations that were harder than our opponents,” said Andersen. “We focused on high intensity practices so come game time we were ready and prepared and ahead of it.”
Against Penn State, Andersen moved up to the draw circle and came away with a career-high nine draw controls to help win the possession battle. Andersen had 20 draw controls in her career coming into this year, and never more than eight in a whole season.
“I was just in there,” said Anderson. “I wasn’t counting. These girls are out to get you. I’m trying not to get tackled.”
Andersen’s contributions were important in the win. She’s remained willing to do whatever the team needs.
“Nonie is a really tough competitor,” said Princeton head coach Chris Sailer. “Her speed is just phenomenal. We have been having some issues on the draw especially in the Virginia game. We moved her up to the draw circle against Penn State and she responded with nine draw controls off the circle. She’s a kid with an incredible first step and I don’t know of anyone that can beat her in a footrace.”
Andersen also defended well in the contest, matching up with Penn State’s top scorer, Madison Carter, for much of the game. Carter did not score in the first half as the Tigers took a 12-3 lead into halftime.
“She played Madison Carter, which is a tough matchup,” said Sailer. “Madison Carter has been really effective off the cut. Nonie did a good job of denying her. Carter eventually got her goals dodging hard from up top. Nonie is consistent for us. She’s a force in our transition game. She takes good risks in terms of going for interceptions, checks and ground balls. She’s really been a spark for us on the field. We’re excited to see the season she can have for us.”
Andersen and the defense were even stingier in the Ivy League opener against Columbia as Princeton cruised to a 19-1 victory, holding the Lions scoreless for the entire first half.
Meanwhile, the Tiger attack picked up its play against Penn State and Columbia. Sophomore Kyla Sears had three goals and four assists against the Nittany Lions with junior Tess D’Orsi adding five goals and an assist and senior Elizabeth George contributing five goals and an assist. In the win over Columbia on Saturday, Sears tallied a goal and three assists while D’Orsi and George had four goals apiece and Julia Haney chipped in two goals and an assist.
“This team is unique,” said Andersen. “I look back at two years ago and we had [Olivia] Hompe [on attack] and Ellie [DeGarmo] was the best goalie in the nation. Now it’s like the whole is better than the parts. Instead of having one attacker to net seven goals, we have seven girls who are great players. It’s the same on defense and the midfield. This year is more exciting. The team is better.”
One of the early question marks was in the midfield where the Tigers were hit the hardest by graduation. They have been improving steadily each game as a core of freshmen have found their roles.
“They’ve looked good,” said Andersen. “They’re young. The freshmen had to get their nerves out and they’re starting to hit their stride. Kathryn Hallett, and even though Annie Cory isn’t playing, they’re helping them adapt. Izzy [Mangan] is coming in and scrapping. They’re doing so well. They’re learning as they go.”
Andersen is behind them on a steady defense that looks as strong as ever in front of sophomore goalie Sam Fish. With so much experience back, the Tigers can throw a lot of different looks at opponents.
“For the larger picture, it makes us harder to scout,” said Andersen. “You don’t know what we’re going to do. You might think you know what we’re going to do and we can whip out a different defense.”
It took a while for Andersen to gain confidence in her defensive abilities at the next level. She came to college wide-eyed out of Glenview, Ill., where she played for a Glenbrook South High. “It was wild,” said Andersen. “I was so in over my head.”
She had gained some experience against better players the summer before her freshman year at Princeton when she played for the Ireland national team in the European Women’s Lacrosse Championship, but it was another leap to join Princeton.
“It wasn’t without work,” said Andersen. “I was able to contribute in some places, but I had to a lot of work to put myself in position to be out there.”
With her father having competed for the Harvard track team, Anderson used her God-given speed to initially get on the field for the Tigers. Over the years, Andersen has made herself a more complete player, one who doesn’t just rely on her speed. Last year, her development was recognized as she was an honorable mention All-Ivy League selection.
Andersen remains on the Irish national team. She played in the World Cup and this summer will again play in the European championships. First, however, she is trying to help Princeton win another title. The Tigers have won five straight Ivy League championships and four straight Ivy tournament crowns and regained their winning ways after their early loss to Virginia.
“It says a lot about our team that we were able to rebound so quickly,” said Sailer. “We are a talented group. Although we’re young in some areas, we have a lot of experience and seniors in key areas who are out there on the field and they’ve had a ton of success over their careers and they want to go out with a great season.”
The Tiger players were pleased with the way they followed up a big win over Penn State with another impressive effort Saturday.
“We tried to make the same thing happen and make practices look the same after Penn State,” said Andersen. “It was a great win, but we wanted to be a better team for Saturday. I think we did it. Now we’re going to look back at the film and try to be a better team for next Saturday. Everybody has bought in.”
Princeton, now ranked 8th, will go for a third straight victory as it hosts No. 18 Stony Brook (2-2) this Saturday.
“We haven’t played them since the 2015 second round game out at Stony Brook,” said Sailer of an 8-4 win in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
“That was a good game for us. We’re looking forward to the challenge. They’ll present some different scenarios for us. They have a great defense so we’re really going to have to be prepared for what we see in them, and they have so many exceptional attackers. I think it’s going to be a great challenge for us and a fun game.”
It’s another chance to improve for Andersen and the Tigers, who didn’t take long to correct some flaws they saw early in the year. After zeroing in on themselves, consecutive dominant performances have them back on the right path.
“In line with the mind-set, I’m not focused on them now,” said Andersen of Stony Brook.
“For now, we have a week of practice so we’ll spend a few days focusing on ourselves. We’ll play our game and make them play to us. We’re going to try to dictate what they do.”