May 11, 2022

Donovan Stars as PU Women’s Lax Wins Ivy Tourney, Tigers Will Host UMass In NCAA Opener on Friday

QUICK DRAW: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Marge Donovan races upfield against Yale in regular season action. Last Sunday, senior star defender Donovan had a single-game record 12 draw controls, adding two caused turnovers and two ground balls and an assist to help Princeton defeat Yale 19-9 in the final of the Ivy League women’s lax tournament. Donovan, who also had seven draw controls in 13-6 win over Harvard in in the Ivy semis on Friday to move into No. 1 all-time (192) in program history and No. 1 in a season (90) in that category, earned tournament Most Outstanding Player honors. Princeton, now 14-3, will host Massachusetts (16-3) in an NCAA tournament first round contest on May 13. The victor will play the winner of the first round matchup between fifth-seeded Syracuse and Fairfield in the second round on May 15 at Class of 1952 Stadium. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Marge Donovan seemed stunned, shrugging her shoulders and striking a “who, me?” pose upon learning last Sunday that she had been chosen as the Most Outstanding Player of the Ivy League women’s lacrosse tournament.

“I was pleasantly surprised, I am so blessed,” said Princeton University senior star defender Donovan, reflecting on the honor.

“Kyla [Sears] said it a couple of seconds ago, it is such a team effort. That award goes to every single person.”

Donovan, though, should not have been taken aback, having produced a memorable weekend. On Friday, she had seven draw controls in top-seeded Princeton’s 13-6 win over fourth-seeded Harvard in the Ivy semis to move into No. 1 all-time (192) in program history and No. 1 in a season (90).

Two days later, Donovan had a single-game team record 12 draw controls, adding two caused turnovers, two ground balls, and an assist to help Princeton defeat second-seeded Yale 19-9 in the final.

Princeton, now 14-3, will be staying at home this weekend to start action in the NCAA tournament as it will face Massachusetts (16-3) in a first round contest. The victor will play the winner of the first round matchup between fifth-seeded Syracuse and Fairfield in the second round on May 15 at Class of 1952 Stadium.

In assessing the weekend, Donovan attributed her success to leaving it all on the field.

“Our whole motto this season is just go out and do the absolute best you can,” said Donovan, a 5’10 native of Catonsville, Md., who was named the 2022 Ivy Defender of the Year. “It is very cliched but it is just so true. You go out and put your heart on the field and that is all you can do.”

In the win over Yale, Princeton played some of its best lacrosse of the spring, producing an amazing first half performance, jumping out to a 15-3 lead over the Bulldogs.

“With this team, it is very mental for us,” said Donovan. “The talent physically is all there. It is postseason and we really have to step up. We know it is survive and advance at this point so we just flip the switch mentally.”

The Tigers took care of business in the second half as they didn’t let Yale get back into the contest.

“We have so much respect for Yale, they are a great team,” said Donovan of the Bulldogs, who Princeton edged 17-14 in the regular season finale on April 30. “At halftime in the locker room we said if we did that half, Yale can certainly do that half. We just went out and kept our foot on the gas.”

As a four-year starter and three-time All-Ivy selection, the unassuming Donovan has grown into a leader for the Tigers, serving as a team captain this spring along with Sears and classmate Olivia Pugh.

“It has evolved a lot, I have had so many incredible leaders on the team before me,” said Donovan of her role on the team. “There are captains, legends, and generations of incredible women. I looked up to them. It is so easy, just do what they did. They are such great leaders.”

Donovan has also looked up to legendary Princeton head coach Chris Sailer, who is retiring this season after 36 years at the helm of the program.

“People talk about her legend but she is an incredible, incredible person,” said Donovan. “She really has built an incredible culture at Princeton. That is the reason why she has been here for so long. She has coached and helped support some amazing, amazing women. I would not be the woman I am today without Chris Sailer and you will hear that a million times over.”

Princeton head coach Sailer was proud of how her women performed in the Ivy tourney.

“The weekend was everything you could ask for,” said Sailer. “Last week was unbelievable but we came out of that game knowing that we could have competed better. We were excited to have an opportunity to face Yale again and really put it all together today.”

With Yale building a 25-9 edge in draw controls in the regular season clash, Princeton focused on reversing that stat in the title game rematch. With sophomore Sophia Whiteway battling hard in the circle, the Tigers turned the tables as they had a 21-10 advantage on draw controls on Sunday.

“Kerrin (assistant coach Kerrin Maurer) does a great job with our draw team,” said Sailer. “We really worked on that all week. Sophie was phenomenal today, she did a great job.”

Donovan was phenomenal all weekend long. “Marge was everywhere, the kid does it all,” said Sailer. “She is crazy athletic and smart She is just such a hustler and a never say die kid. She made the biggest difference for us all over the field in both games.

The Tigers came out hustling from the opening draw on Sunday, leading 8-3 after the first quarter and then outscoring Yale 7-0 in the second quarter.

“We really did jump on them, we wanted to come out hard,” said Sailer. “We talked about trying to stay neutral in our mentality and just play the game and attack the game. We wanted to play fierce and free. I think we did that.”

Senior star attacker Kyla Sears played fiercely once again, tallying four goals and one assist, passing Olivia Hompe’s previous program career record of 198 goals. She ended the day at 202 career goals and extended her program records in points (299) and assists (97) as the Tigers held off Yale.

“It is hard to maintain that same pace against a really good team,” said Sailer who also got four goals in the win from sophomore Grace Tauckus and freshman McKenzie Blake. “You know they are going to go on a run. I thought we did a great job. We had that running clock basically the whole second half. It was awesome.”

In the view of Sailer, Princeton’s dominant performance and its seven-game winning streak bodes well for a run in the national tournament.

“It just gives us confidence going into NCAA; we were reading some things that we were primed for an upset, things like that,” said Sailer. “I am not big on bulletin board stuff but it doesn’t escape us. We believe in ourselves. We know what we are capable of and I think we showed it today.”

No matter how far the Tigers go in the NCAA tournament, Sailer and her seniors are going to relish the chance to have more time together on the field.

“We are going to give it our best and compete, that has been our goal all year long to have a deep run in the NCAA tournament,” said Sailer. “We would really love to get to that Final 4. We are looking forward to just continuing the season, continuing to get better every day, and get some more days of practice. I want to keep it going for the whole team. There are 10 seniors and it is my last year too. We are just riding it as far as we can.”

In Donovan’s view, the Tigers can go far if they play like they did last Sunday.

“We have all of the confidence in the world than when we show up and play our best, we can beat anyone in the country,” said Donovan.