After leading the Princeton University women’s soccer team with 10 goals in 2013 as a freshman, Tyler Lussi found herself in a scoring drought this fall.
Lussi scored only one goal in Princeton’s first six games as the Tigers got off to a shaky 1-3-2 start.
In the seventh game, Lussi scored the lone goal in a 1-0 win at Yale in the Ivy League opener and something clicked for her.
“I think that Yale was a nice, simple goal and if I keep myself doing simple things, it works out easier,” said Lussi. “I think that definitely started me off and kept me hungry for goals.”
Satisfying that hunger, Lussi scored two goals in each of Princeton’s next two games, a 2-2 tie with Dartmouth on October 4 and a 4-1 win over Lehigh last Wednesday.
Last Saturday against visiting Brown, Lussi was simply great, scoring three goals in a 5-0 win, recording the first hat trick of her college career.
“It is an amazing feeling,” said Lussi, whose heroics helped Princeton improve to 4-3-3 overall and 2-0-1 Ivy, tied for first in the league with Harvard (7-3-2 overall, 2-0-1 Ivy).
“I think I have had a couple of two-goal games but I think getting the third one was definitely good and I was really excited.”
The Tigers came into the evening excited by their outburst in the win over Lehigh.
“Coming off that really motivated us and in the first 25 minutes, we were coming in very strong and hard,” said Lussi.
After sophomore Haley Chow scored twice in the first 15 minutes to give Princeton a 2-0 lead, Lussi found the back of the net on a feed from senior star Lauren Lazo.
“It was an amazing pass from Lauren,” said Lussi, who scored with 26:29 remaining in the first half. “I just had to ‘nice and easy’ put it in the corner and it worked out.”
In the second half, Lussi scored on a rebound at the 56:48 mark and then blasted a volley off the post five minutes later for her third tally of the evening.
“I think we were moving the ball and I think just getting the little touches and it worked well,” said Lussi, a native of Lutherville, Md., who was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week.
“We were all moving off the ball and moving for each other, it was very good.”
With a season of college soccer under her belt, Lussi is moving more smartly on the field.
“I think as a sophomore I know where each of my teammates is, how they play, where they play, and what type of balls they want,” said Lussi, who now has a team-high and league-high nine goals.
“I know where I need to be on the field and what type of runs I need to make. I am more confident, so going forward it is definitely good.”
Tiger head coach Julie Shackford enjoyed a milestone herself in the win over Brown as the triumph marked the 200th win in her 20-year tenure at Princeton.
“It means I have been here for a long time,” said a smiling Shackford, reflecting on her achievement which comes in her final season at Princeton as she announced this summer that she will be stepping down at the end of the fall. “It’s cool to do it at home for an Ivy League game in a game we played so well.”
Shackford credited Chow with breaking the game open for the Tigers. “She was a big-time catalyst; she is definitely coming into her own,” said Shackford.
“She is starting to defend better and because of her size, she is always going to be good in the air.”
In Shackford’s view, Lussi’s big-time scoring prowess comes down to desire.
“I just thinks she wants it so much, she has a phenomenal work rate,” said Shackford.
“She has gotten a little better tactically. Last year in the league, she had a hard time shaking defenders and I think that she is starting to figure out how to get herself into spots and good goal scoring positions. I think most importantly it is just her will to score, she just has it. She was holding the steering wheel too tight earlier.”
Shackford liked the way her defense tightened things up in the shutout of the Bears.
“Jesse McDonough had a great game for us today, she stepped into the plays and read things better,” asserted Shackford.
“I thought our shape in the back was better overall. Lauren Lazo was phenomenal, she did a lot of dirty work, she does so much dirty work. Darcy Hargadon played well in goal tonight, everything was clean, everything with her feet was good.”
With Princeton having dealt with a rash of injuries, everything seems headed in the right direction for the Tigers.
“I think just getting people relatively healthy has been a big piece of it,” said Shackford, whose team is 3-0-1 in its last four games after the 1-3-2 start and plays at Columbia (5-2-5 overall, 1-1-1 Ivy) on October 18.
“I would say also getting to this point that a lot of people have stepped up to do things and have done them really well. Kids played in different spots and I think they did well adjusting to people being out. It is a fighting team, they have a really good spirit about them. They are really fun to coach.”
Lussi, for her part, believes the Tigers have developed a special spirit from facing adversity.
“I think with all the injuries we have just come even closer as a team and worked even harder for each other,” said Lussi.
“I think it has showed and we are improving every game. We are hitting it right on the head and we are moving forward and getting stronger.”