April 26, 2017

Showing Resilience in Overtime Win at Cornell, PU Women’s Lax Focused on Getting Ivy Title

FANTASTIC FINISH: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Colby Chanenchuk heads upfield in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday at Cornell, Chanenchuk had three goals and an assist, including the game-winning tally in overtime, as the Tigers rallied from a late two-goal deficit to prevail 12-11. No. 9 Princeton, now 11-3 overall and 5-1 Ivy League, wraps up regular season play by hosting Columbia (7-7 overall, 2-4 Ivy) on April 29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last Wednesday evening, the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team dug a 9-2 hole at Penn on the way to a 17-12 loss as a late rally fell short.

Three days later at Cornell, the Tigers started much better, jumping out to a 6-3 lead at halftime.

But Princeton found itself needing to rally again as the Big Red stormed back to take an 11-9 lead with four minutes left in regulation.

This time, Princeton came through, getting goals from Tess D’Orsi and Olivia Hompe to knot the game at 11-11 and force overtime and then prevailed as Colby Chanenchuk found the back of the net in a feed from Hompe.

The thrilling win improved the ninth-ranked Tigers to 11-3 overall and 5-1 Ivy League, moving it into a three-way tie for first in the regular season standings with No. 7 Penn (12-2 overall, 5-1 Ivy) and No. 11 Cornell (10-4 overall, 5-1 Ivy).

In the view of Princeton head coach Chris Sailer, the triumph also gave the Tigers a jolt of confidence as they prepare for the upcoming Ivy tournament with an eye on another trip to the NCAA tourney.

“It is just huge in terms of our resilience, our competitiveness, never giving up, and finding a way; we haven’t had close games this year,” said Sailer, noting the Tigers three losses were by five goals or more and most of their wins have been one-sided.

“It was a great experience for us and really great for our confidence knowing that we could pull it out.”

In the early going against Cornell, it looked like the Tigers weren’t going to need a rally as they jumped out to a 4-2 advantage and led 7-3 early in the second half.

“We got off to a nice start; I think the biggest thing about that Cornell game was the difference in the draw controls,” said Sailer whose team built an 8-2 edge in draw controls in the first half and ended up with a 17-9 advantage in the category on the day. “We really dominated in that stat.”

The Tigers, though, didn’t take full advantage of their possession as Cornell fought back in the second half.

“Shooting is something we are going to be focusing on this week,” said Sailer.

“We had opportunities for goals. We have to be able to adjust better to what the goalie is doing. Seeing what saves she is making versus what saves she isn’t and then adjust accordingly.”

Junior star Chanenchuk adjusted, however, turning from her customary role of feeder into clutch scorer, tallying three goals and an assist against Cornell.

“Colby did have a few goals,” said Sailer of Chanenchuk who has a team-high 30 assists. “She got herself open on the crease and was able to finish, which was great.”

While getting the win was great, Sailer knows her team has plenty of room for growth.

“I think it is going to be important that we examine that win as much as we examine the losses and really look to continue to grow and improve,” said Sailer.

In Sailer’s view, her players need to hone in on being smarter with the ball.

“The focus is just playing our game at a high level,” said Sailer. “We were really pleased with the draw controls in the Cornell game; we have to continue doing well on that end. We have got to keep put unforced errors at a minimum. We have to do better handling the ball under pressure and being able to find opportunities and finishing up opportunities against the variety of defenses we were coming up against.”

With Princeton hosting Columbia (7-7 overall, 2-4 Ivy) in its regular season finale on April 29, Sailer is looking for the Tigers to dwell on handling the Lions rather than their tournament prospects.

“Before we even think about the postseason, we have to finish the regular season strong,” said Sailer.

“We have a quality Columbia team coming here that has a lot of weapons offensively. They are quick, they are fast; they have had a really good season so we are going to have to play our best. It is Senior Day, it is alumni day. We want a share of the Ivy League title; that is what we are playing for and that is going to be our focus this week.”