Biles' 2nd Half Outburst Provides Spark As Tiger Women's Lax Wins 18th Straight
By Bill Alden
Coming into Saturday riding a 17-game winning streak, the top-ranked and undefeated Princeton University women's lacrosse team figured to roll over visiting Cornell which entered the day at 1-6.
But the inspired Big Red outhustled the two-time defending national champions for most of the first half and trailed Princeton only 7-6 at the break.
Sparked by some fiery words at halftime from head coach Chris Sailer, the Tigers hit the field for the second half banging sticks and yelling at each other to pump themselves up.
Minutes later, they were banging shots past Cornell, putting together an early 5-1 run which quelled the Big Red and helped Princeton cruise to a 16-10 win.
A key figure in Princeton's decisive surge was junior attacker Lindsey Biles, who fired in three goals in a four-minute stretch.
Afterward, Biles acknowledged that the Tigers started the second half determined to make amends for their moribund effort in the first 30 minutes of the contest.
"We came out blatantly flat," admitted Biles, a native of Annapolis, Md. "We just weren't doing the little things. We weren't getting ground balls, we didn't really have our motion offense working at all. At half, we had a wake-up call. We knew we had to work really hard and that we couldn¹t just sit back and let the game come to us."
Biles, for her part, knew that she had to step up individually. "I hadn't scored yet, there were a lot of people who hadn't scored," recalled Biles. "We started working together well, we were setting picks for each other. My teammates helped me to get open a lot, Everyone gave it so much more heart in the second half."
Biles, who now has a team-high 28 goals, nearly matching her 2003 total of 30, has given more to the team than she has in the past.
"I'm playing at a higher level," said Biles. "I've improved, I think confidence is a big thing. I've learned to drive more, I'm being more aggressive in the midfield."
Coach Sailer isn't surprised that Biles came up big when the Tigers needed her Saturday. "Lindsey was a little bit in the shadows of some of the older players for the last two years," said Sailer, whose club improved to 9-0 overall and 2-0 in Ivy play with the win over Cornell.
"We always knew that she could be a go-to kid. She knows that she has to be one of the focal points of the offense. She's a special player, she's tough to mark. Lindsey is elevating her game."
After the Tigers' mediocre first half Saturday, Sailer urged her team to elevate its game. "I tried to fire them up and remind them of how hard we have to work," said Sailer, who got five goals from sensational freshman Kathleen Miller and two apiece from veteran stars Tara Hardiman, Elizabeth Pillion, and Theresa Sherry.
"I think we think the game is going to come to us and that we don't have to go out and actually take control of the game. I think they responded really well. We definitely upped our intensity, both defensively and offensively."
While Princeton wasn't at its sharpest Saturday, the win kept the 2004 Tigers on track to potentially reaching a place among the greatest teams in the history of women's lacrosse. Princeton plays at Temple on April 7 and hosts Yale on April 10 as it looks to break the program's record winning streak of 19.
Sailer, who made it clear that the team isn't dwelling on streaks or achieving perfection, acknowledges that focus could bring greatness.
"It's a fun group to work with so in that way it's a special team, said Sailer, who is in her 18th year coaching Princeton and now has a 224-72 mark in her tenure guiding the Tigers.
"In terms of results and how things are going to go, that's a few months away. If we're going to become a great team, we need to have the same attitude everyday we step on the field, not just when we are playing a Virginia or a Georgetown. Everyday we have to go out and show what we can do by playing great lacrosse and working really hard."
Biles maintains that the Tigers have developed a special chemistry that could take them to another title. "I think we're definitely a special team," added Biles, who acknowledged that the team is spurred by the chance to achieve the NCAA three-peat on home ground with the Final Four being held at Princeton Stadium in late May.
"We work together so well. At the beginning of each day in practice, we work hard on setting each other up. I think it's gone a long way so far. We have to take each team and play our best and feed off of that."