Extending Win Streak to 9 in Winning Ivy Tourney, Princeton Women’s Lax Hosting NCAA Weekend
HEADING HOME: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Nonie Andersen unloads the ball in recent action. Last weekend, senior defender Anderson helped Princeton defeat Penn 13-9 in the Ivy League Tournament championship game. The Tigers, now 14-3, will begin play in the NCAA tournament this weekend where they are seeded seventh and will host the victor of the opening round game between Fairfield and Wagner in a first round game on May 10. The winner of that game will advance to a second round game on May 12 at Class of 1952 Stadium against the victor of the Loyola/Richmond first round game. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Justin Feil
The Princeton University women’s lacrosse team has accomplished two of its goals, and now begins the pursuit of their third and loftiest goal.
Having won the regular season Ivy League title for the sixth straight year and then the Ivy League Tournament for the second straight season, the seventh-seeded Tigers will host the winner of Fairfield and Wagner in the first round of the NCAA tournament on May 10 at Class of 1952 Stadium. Princeton comes off a 13-9 win over Penn for the Ivy tournament championship Sunday, and hope to extend their nine-game winning streak.
“We’ve met two of our goals this year, but we have a lot in front of us,” said Sailer.
“We want to go deep in this tournament. None of these players have been to a final four or won a national championship and certainly those are goals of ours as a program and a team. It’s always one game at a time. We’re going to look ahead to the winner of the play-in game Tuesday and see who we have to be ready to do battle with and try to extend the season into May as long as we possibly can. Our kids have a maturity about them. They’re happy with what we’ve done, but they’re not going to settle for that. They want more. They want to keep playing together.”
Princeton hasn’t lost a game since dropping two straight to end March. They wrapped up the Ivy regular season with an 18-15 win at Cornell on April 27. Less than a week later, top-seeded Princeton controlled the rematch, 11-6, over fourth-seeded Cornell in the Ivy tournament semifinals that were hosted by Columbia. Sam Fish made 15 saves, Kyla Sears had a hat trick and Allie Rogers scored the first two goals of the game to help Princeton jump on top, 6-0, midway through the first half. Cornell never got closer than 8-5.
The victory set up another game against Penn, whom Princeton defeated last year for the Ivy tournament championship and defeated in the regular season. The teams were tied at halftime, 6-6, on a soggy day in New York before Princeton pulled away with a decisive second half in the 13-9 triumph to improve to 14-3 overall and take a second straight Ivy League Tournament and fifth in 10 years.
“I think it really says a lot,” said Sailer, reflecting on winning another Ivy tourney.
“You look at this tournament and certainly the top three seeds and Cornell was the four seed, and anyone had a chance to win it. The same was probably true last year. There’s a lot of parity overall in the sport of lacrosse and certainly in our conference there’s been a lot of parity at the top, but we’ve been able to assert ourselves as the top program in the conference over the last three or four or five years. It certainly hasn’t been easy. Our kids know what it takes for us to have gotten there and they do not want to easily relinquish it.”
Tiger sophomore star Kyla Sears was named the Most Outstanding Player after a highlight-filled day that included two goals and a career-high tying five assists. She now has 49 goals, just behind of Elizabeth George, who scored five goals to up her season total to 54, and Tess D’Orsi, who has 53 after scoring three against Penn. George and D’Orsi are the first Princeton teammates to hit the half-century mark in the same season. Fish had nine saves and her defense in front of her got tougher as the game went along. After winning just three draw controls in the first half, Princeton won seven of 11 in the second half.
“We made a change on the draw that really helped us a lot,” said Sailer. “We put our freshman, Lillian Stout, on the draw and she did a great job for us. We just changed it up a little. We put Georgie on the circle and had a lot more success on the draw in the second half with Lillian Stout than we had in the first half. I think that was key getting those extra possessions. We went to the faceguard on (Gabby) Rosenzweig and I think that helped. I think that made a difference for us in the game and our defense really tightened up and weren’t giving them many good looks. We were on top of the cuts they were running and offensively our really great players took over and made a lot of great plays. It was really nice to see excellent play at both ends of the field.”
Princeton pulled away early in the second half, but Penn rallied to make it 9-8 midway through the second half. The Tigers held Penn to one goal over the final 16:10 while building their lead and were able to start celebrating all out after George’s breakaway goal with 7 seconds to go.
“Penn’s a great team and we knew they weren’t going away and we’d have to fight the entire game in order to be able to win it,” said Sailer.
“Our kids did just that and we were able to catch the momentum and create the momentum a number of times to get that separation. Especially after they came back up within one, to go up by three and get that final goal at the very end off the defensive end causing a turnover and a long pass down to Georgie from Kathryn Hallett and put an exclamation point on it with a four goal win was nice. We really respect Penn, but it feels good to beat them twice in one season.”
Princeton was represented on the All-Tournament team by Sears, George and defenders Mary Murphy and Nonie Andersen along with Fish. The Tigers’ tournament win guaranteed them a home game for the NCAA tournament and bolstered their resume to take the seventh seed. They will face either Wagner or Fairfield, two good teams from smaller conferences. Loyola and Richmond will play the other first-round game at Class of 1952 Stadium on Friday.
“The nice thing is you’re going to be able to see their game on Tuesday and then you have two days of practice to prepare,” said Sailer.
“We’ll be off (Monday) and then Tuesday we can really work on ourselves and fine tune things we want for the weekend. So Wednesday, Thursday we hit the preparation for the team that we’re going to face. Should we advance, we could be facing a familiar opponent that we faced a month ago in Loyola. I think we’ll have time to get prepared for our first-round game and it’s so nice to be hosting.”
Earning a home berth is especially important to a Princeton team that hasn’t played at home since defeating Harvard 14-12 on April 13.
“Having just been on the road for the tournament for the weekend, we played our last five games on the road,” said Sailer. “It’s going to be so nice to come back to Class of 1952 Stadium, it is such a great place for us to play in front of our home fans. I’m sure we’ll get a great turnout for the games this weekend. As a coach, it just makes your life so much easier. There are far fewer details that you have to prepare for when you have a home contest. For the kids, it’s going through our normal routine, not having that extra factor of traveling or the staff having all the extra planning. We can really just focus on preparing for our opponent.”
Sailer is banking on the veteran players to make sure that Princeton isn’t satisfied with just its Ivy crowns. The Tigers are shifting their focus to the next step, and feeling confident they can go far in the NCAA tournament.
“I think we’re really finding ways to win,” said Sailer. “We’ve been in a lot of different types of games. We’ve been in games where we’ve had big leads and teams have come back. We’ve been in games where we had to come from behind. We’ve been in battles all the way through. We haven’t had a lot of blowout victories. I feel like that makes us battle tested. I think we’re playing really confidently now and believe in ourselves. When we are all playing together and at our best, I think we’re going to be tough to beat.”