May 1, 2019

PU Women’s Lax Edges Cornell for 6th Ivy Title, Tigers Heading to NYC for League Tournament

SIX SHOOTERS: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Tess D’Orsi sprints upfield in recent action. Last Saturday, junior star D’Orsi tallied four goals and two assists to help Princeton defeat Cornell 18-15 in its regular season finale. The 10th-ranked Tigers improved to 12-3 overall and 6-1 Ivy with the win over the Big Red, earning their sixth straight league regular season title in the process. This weekend, Princeton heads to New York City for the Ivy postseason tournament where it is seeded first and will face fourth-seeded Cornell in a semifinal contest on Friday. The victor will advance to the title game on May 5 against the winner of the other semi between third-seeded Penn and second-seeded Dartmouth. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

There was a chill in the air as the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team played at Cornell last Saturday in its regular season finale as snow showers hit Ithaca and the temperature hovered around 40.

Undeterred by the wintry conditions, Princeton got off to a hot start, jumping out to a 12-5 halftime lead.

“We were playing really well, we were winning the draws by a large margin in the first half and that allowed us to get those good possessions,” said Princeton head coach Chris Sailer.

“We were shooting really well, our shooting for the day was right around 60 percent, which is phenomenal. We had a lot of nice looks offensively and we were finishing our 8-meters.”

With Cornell building a draw edge of 10-6 in the second half, the Big Red rallied to within three goals but never got closer as Princeton pulled out an 18-15 victory

“This is a good Cornell team and we saw that on the film we watched,” said Sailer.

“They are really powerful offensively, they had a lot of different weapons. They had some kids really step up. We did a decent job on their top scorers, Caroline Allen and Tomasina Leska, but some of their other kids really performed well.”

By stepping up down the stretch, 10th-ranked Princeton improved to 12-3 overall and 6-1 Ivy, earning its sixth straight league regular season title in the process. It also clinched the top seed for the league postseason tournament this weekend, which will decide which team gets the Ivy’s automatic berth in the upcoming NCAA tournament.

“It was just great for our players to be able to walk off that field with a win, knowing that after the early loss to Brown (12-11 on March 23) that we really had no room for error,” said Sailer, who got four goals and two assists from junior Tess D’Orsi in the triumph with sophomore Kyla Sears and senior Elizabeth George adding four apiece.

“We knew what we wanted and we kept our eyes firmly focused on that and just tried to attack each game and each play of each game. Whatever it takes to win, we have been able to do. We have played a lot of really good teams during that stretch. If you look at the four teams in the Ivy tournament, we had to beat the other three (Cornell, Penn, and Dartmouth) all on the road in tough places to play.”

Earning a sixth straight crown shows that the Tigers have maintained a winning focus over the years.

“It really means a lot for the program, I think the most we had ever won in a row before this stretch was four in a row,” said Sailer, whose team is sharing the regular title with Dartmouth (11-4 overall, 6-1 Ivy).

“To win or share six in a row now is really a tribute to the hard work that the team puts in day in, day out, and their commitment to the process and improving over the course of the season. It is a lot of hard work for our staff in terms of recruiting. You don’t succeed at that level consistently if you don’t have a really strong culture that we developed within the program.”

In reflecting on this spring’s success, Sailer gives a lot of credit to the program’s stellar senior group.

“The senior class has been impactful; any tine you graduate with four Ivy titles, you have to have had an impactful class,” said Sailer, whose Class of 2019 includes Alex Argo, Nonie Andersen, Allie Rogers, Kathryn Hallett, Izzy Mangan, Julia Haney, and George.

“I think it has been 2009 since we have had such a large senior class where every single kid was basically a full-time player for us. They all didn’t start out that way, I think only one of them started as a freshman, so they have really developed and grown. They were a great recruiting class; we thought they would have a really tremendous career here. They have more than met those lofty expectations.”

As Princeton heads to New York City for the Ivy postseason tournament, where it is seeded first and will face fourth-seeded Cornell in a semifinal contest on Friday, Sailer has high expectations.

“For me, any time you are in a tournament, you start out 0-0; it doesn’t matter what your seed is, it is two games to win the tournament championship,” said Sailer, whose team would face the winner of other semi between third-seeded Penn and second-seeded Dartmouth in the title game on May 5 if it can win the rematch against the Big Red.

“I think we gave Cornell some confidence, they were able to score a bunch of goals in the last 10-15 minutes of that game. We have to play better defense than we did in the second half the other day. It is going to be a fight. I go back to two years ago when we beat Penn 21-8 and then it was a three goals game a week later in the conference championship. Each game is different. It is not going to be the same script again. We are going to have to be ready for a battle and playing our best.”

Having posted seven straight wins, Princeton is ready for a big postseason run.

“It is win or go home; you need your best lacrosse and we are excited for the opportunity,” said Sailer.

“We have played some great lacrosse over the last few weeks, different units have led in different games. We are really going to need to have everybody on top of their game and playing our collective best.”