March 22, 2023

Tiger Women’s Lax Loses Nail-Biter to Penn State, But Junior Midfielder Buonanno Shines in Defeat

KARI ON: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Kari Buonanno races upfield last Saturday against Penn State. Junior midfielder Buonanno tallied four goals and an assist in a losing cause as Princeton fell 16-14 to the Nittany Lions. The Tigers, now 3-3, play at Cornell on March 25. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Kari Buonanno has dealt with plenty of adversity over her career with the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team.

As a freshmen, Buonanno’s season was halted after five games when the sports world was shut down in March 2020 due to the COVID pandemic.

After taking a gap year, Buonanno returned to the team last spring and missed five games due to injury.

Back at full speed coming into the 2023 campaign, Buonanno is primed to make up for lost time.

“There has been a lot of growth for me personally,” said junior midfielder Buonanno, a 5’6 native of Providence, R.I. “I haven’t really played a full season so getting more games under my belt, getting more confident and finding my voice as a leader has been huge for me so it is a big jump.”

Last Saturday, Buonanno displayed that growth, tallying four goals and an assist in a losing cause as then No. 16 Princeton fell 16-14 to No. 25 Penn State.

“One of our coaches said to me in the first quarter, don’t try to do too much, let the game come to you,” said Buonanno, who now has 14 goals and six assists on the season.

“That is just a great reminder for me. When I just let the game happen in front of me, I think that is when I play my best and have the most fun. It was coming together for me but I am feeling unsatisfied by this loss.”

Princeton got off to a great start against the Nittany Lions, building a 10-7 halftime lead as seven different Tigers found the back of the net.

“We are a youngish offense but I think we have had a ton of success this year,” said Buonanno, who tied her career single-game best in goals with her effort in the defeat. “I feel really comfortable. I am confident with the ball in anyone’s hands out there, which is a really good sign. That feels really great. We felt confident going into the second half.”

While Buonanno tallied three of her goals in the second half, the rest of the Princeton attack sputtered as it dealt with some adjustments by Penn State.

“They were throwing up different man versus zone looks at us,” said Buonanno. “We just needed to adjust better than we did on those wrinkles. There was a lot of good in our offense besides the second half when we were a little less efficient. I think there were a lot of good moments there. We have to continue to grow and evolve but there were some definitely some good pieces.”

Princeton head coach Jenn Cook was disappointed to see Princeton squander its early advantage.

“We looked great in the first half, we just didn’t do that in the second half,” said Cook. “We didn’t control tempo and finish the looks we are capable of finishing. We always talk about following the good with the good. I can’t necessarily say that we did that today.”

Cook acknowledged that the Tigers had trouble containing Penn State’s attack down the stretch of the contest.

“We knew the offensive motion that they ran,” said Cook. “We didn’t turn the corner in terms of executing those little details, like not giving them second chance opportunities in the defensive end on ground balls, stuff like that.”

Buonanno proved to be a bright spot for the Tigers as she cashed in her scoring opportunities.

“Kari is just a competitor, she works incredibly hard as well in the game,” said Cook, who got two goals and three assists from freshman Jami MacDonald against Penn State with senior Kate Mulham chipping in two goals and two assists and junior Grace Tauckus adding two goals. “She really gets up and down the field so well and is like a true middie. She plays both ends of the field really, really well. She had an incredible game — I am really happy for her performance.”

While Cook had hoped for a better performance from her squad, she believes the Tigers can take some lessons from the setback.

“Every game is an opportunity to learn, we are pretty much a third of the way through of the season,” said Cook. “We have to be urgent to make changes and execute the pieces we know we are going to see. That is really what we talked about. We have to continually view practice as game day in order to be truly prepared for game time.”

With Princeton playing at Cornell on March 25 to resume Ivy League action, Cook is confident that the Tigers will be prepared to excel.

We always talk within our program, we are the work that we do,” said Cook, whose team fell 15-10 at Yale on March 4 in its Ivy opener. “So we have got to really up our work next week. Cornell is a business trip, we have to be ready to go. They are a tough competitor, every Ivy League game is tough. We have to be ready to go and do all of the prep and feel extremely confident going into that game.”

Buonanno believes that the Tigers will put in the work as they gird for the clash against the Big Red.

“Having a really great, focused week of practice is going to be huge,” said Buonanno. “This loss will be a tough one to swallow but hopefully that will make us more hungry.”