April 24, 2024

Tauckus Shines on Senior Day with 4 Goals, Helping Tiger Women’s Lax Top Dartmouth

AMAZING GRACE: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Grace Tauckus races upfield in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior attacker Tauckus scored four goals to help Princeton defeat Dartmouth 17-11. The Tigers, now 9-5 overall and 5-1 Ivy League, play at Harvard on April 27 to wrap up regular season play before it heads into the Ivy postseason tournament. (Photo by Steven Wojtowicz)

By Bill Alden

After playing through rain in each of its home games this spring, the sun was shining on the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team last Saturday afternoon as it hosted Dartmouth and held its annual Senior Day celebration.

Enjoying the finally pleasant weather, senior attacker Grace Tauckus was ready to shine in her last home game.

“It was our last day on ’52, it was obviously an emotional one for all of us,” said Tauckus. “This team is incredibly special this year, everybody is incredibly close. It makes days like this a little bittersweet. I wanted to make the most of it today.”

Going through COVID interruptions during their college years has led to the Class of ’24 becoming particularly close.

“Everybody stayed very resilient,” said Tauckus, a 5’6 native of Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y. “We have had a lot of challenges thrown at us but we have been able to overcome those and write our own story. It is a unique one for sure.”

Against Dartmouth, Tauckus helped make the home finale a happy chapter, scoring a goal 32 seconds into the contest.

“Dartmouth is a great team, they have a great goalie,” said Tauckus. “We talked a lot about having to see around her. Trying to strike first was big for us, I am glad that we were able to do that.”

The Tigers kept striking, jumping out to a 9-0 led by the end of the first quarter, never looking back on the way to a 17-11 win as they improved to 9-5 overall and 5-1 Ivy League.

“That is something we have been trying to put together, finishing the play on both ends, supporting each other,” said Tauckus, reflecting on the first quarter outburst.

“When defense comes up with a big stop, it is making sure that we put the ball away on the other end. It was great to see. We know how well we can play when we play as a unit. That was our goal today — to come out and show how dominant we can be when we all play together.”

Tauckus ended up with four goals in the victory and now has 35 on the season.

“Our teammates did a really good job of setting each other up,” said Tauckus, who has tallied 159 points in her career on 128 goals and 31 assists. “That doesn’t happen without everyone working together. Haven Dora had a million assists today.”

As a senior leader, Tauckus has looked to help keep things together on the field with her voice.

“I have learned to communicate a lot more from the girls who came before me, they were incredible role models,” said Tauckus.

“It is just trying to be like them as much as I can on the field. I just try to be a really vocal leader out there and work with each other.”

After going 7-9 last year, the Tigers have been making a statement this spring with a bounce back campaign.

“Last year we didn’t have the outcome that we hoped for,” said Tauckus.

“I think a lot of us were able to learn from that and make some tangible changes to prevent that from happening this year.”

Applying those lessons, the Tigers have caught fire down the stretch, going 6-2 in their last eight games.

“This team has a lot of energy; we play for each other and I think it shows on the field,” said Tauckus.

“You see how happy everybody is for each other, supporting each other’s successes has definitely carried us far.”

With Princeton wrapping up regular season play with a game at Harvard on April 27 and then starting action in the Ivy postseason tournament with a semifinal contest on May 3 in New Haven, Conn., Tauckus believes the Tigers can go far.

“We still have another game this season,” said Tauckus. “I think this is a special group. I am excited to see what we can do in May.”

Princeton head coach Jenn Cook views the team’s seniors as a particularly special class.

“This senior group has just been incredible, they have really done an incredible job this year, guiding and mentoring the younger girls on the team,” said Cook.

“They have done a really great job on and off the field, creating connections between different classes. I think the connections really play into how we play as a team on both sides of the ball. It is a credit to those seniors who have really driven our culture all year.”

The Tigers did a great job collectively against the Big Green as they jumped out to a 9-0 lead.

“They came out on fire out of the gate,” said Cook. “This game was all about playing and honoring those seniors and everything they have done for this program over that time as a Tiger. It was just so awesome to see.”

One of the most awesome moments of the day came late in the third quarter when senior Olivia Koch, a former Lawrenceville School star, scored her first career goal, prompting a roar from the crowd.

“We finished strong, we did get a lot of people in,” said Cook.

“Olivia was awesome, our whole team erupted for her. It was just such a great moment. Every single person on this team celebrates each other’s little successes and that makes a massive difference.”

Cook credits Tauckus with making a massive impact for the Tigers over her career.

“Grace has brought so much to this program, to this team and to our attack,” said Cook.

“She plays so selflessly and really just makes everyone around her better. That is what she has done for all four years. It is just a great day to honor that class and Grace.”

Junior star McKenzie Blake had another great day as she tallied four goals and one assist and now has a team-high 51 goals this spring.

“You can give her the ball and you can always trust that she is going to finish it,” said Cook.

“She has great hands, great vision and her decisions with the ball are always incredible. She has had a great year, we are so excited for her. She has really just done a great job of listening to the coaching and finding those openings and finishing.”

In reflecting on Princeton’s progress this spring after going through a tough season last year, Cook believes that the seniors have played a key role in making that happen.

“I think the bounce back from last year, I can really attribute to our culture which has had a direct impact by the senior class and them really understanding what we want and need in order to have a different result from last year,” said Cook.

“They have just done an incredible job of getting everybody on the same page, playing everyday in practice, playing through the weather and just playing to elevate your game in practice collectively as a team.”

As the Tigers look ahead to the Ivy tourney and a likely return to the NCAA tournament, Cook is confident that the Tigers will elevate their game.

“With this group, I think there is so much love and joy when we play,” said Cook.

“I think we could turn some heads in the Ivy tournament and I also think we could make a really phenomenal run in the NCAA tournament as well. It is continuing to grow, continuing to play connected. We let the game be our teacher. It is all about getting better every single time we have an opportunity to be together, whether at practice or in a game.”

Tauckus believes that Princeton will need to sharpen its focus to produce a memorable postseason run.

“It is showing up for all 60 minutes of our game; we have had some incredible quarters and then we have had some where we don’t look like ourselves,” said Tauckus.

“Against really good teams, you are going to need to show up for all four quarters so that will be big for us.”