In the first of two games played at the Class of 1952 Stadium’s Sherrerd Field last Saturday, women’s lacrosse (3-3 overall, 0-1 Ivy League) faced off against the No. 6 Virginia Cavaliers (4-5, 0-2 Atlantic Coast Conference). The week prior, for the first time this season, the Princeton side had fallen out of the nation’s top-20 ranking. Consecutive overtime defeats raised questions about the caliber of this highly touted roster. What had been a 23-game win streak over Ivy rival Brown was broken in a 14-13 loss in Providence, R.I. However, the Princeton women managed to pull off an upset of their own in a 15-13 win over Virginia.
Following a successful defense of Sherrerd Field, the Tigers traveled across the country for a pair of matchups against Southern California opponents USC (3-4, 1-0 Pacific-12) and San Diego State (6-2, 3-0 Pacific-12). A pair of dominating wins — they outmatched the Trojans 14-7 and the Aztecs 16-9 — has put some substantial momentum behind this side as they move into a slate of three league opponents.
Against the Women of Troy this past Wednesday, freshman midfielder Anna Doherty fired a game-high five goals past USC’s Liz Shaeffer. Nine different Tigers contributed with goals in this past Saturday’s win over San Diego State. Sophomore attack Anna Menke tallied her first career goal and the Tigers’ final of the day with 37 seconds remaining in play.
Going into the previous Saturday’s Virginia contest, the Tigers knew they would have to have success on draw controls and stay smart in possession to keep pace with their opponents. Disadvantageous times of possession coupled with a tendency toward fast breaks had, it seems, sunk the Tigers in close games. Indeed, Princeton head coach Chris Sailer’s adjustments proved effective, as her side held a 17-12 edge in draw controls and while running a smoother offense.
“I think the whole team really grew,” Sailer said. “Virginia plays at a very fast pace and they have a ton of threats. But we stayed in the game plan and did what we need to do.”
In another adjustment, junior goalkeeper Annie Whoeling earned her first start and her first win of the season. Whoeling took the place of senior Caroline Franke, whose save percentage of .355 would be insufficient for a competitive Division I program. The junior tallied an impressive nine saves through 60 minutes. Against their California opponents last week, Whoeling had two starts and two wins, while recording seven saves against USC and seven more against SDSU.
“We didn’t make that decision until before the game,” coach Sailer explained after the Virgina game regarding the change in net. “I thought she really deserved it. She really came through for us. She made some big saves.”
Without injured Ivy League Attacker of the Year junior Erin McMunn against the Cavaliers, the Tigers’ midfield core led the way. Senior Sarah Lloyd tallied a team-high four goals while junior linemate Erin Slifer added two scores and three assists. For her efforts, Slifer earned her career-first Ivy League Player of the Week honor.
Little separated Princeton and Virginia through the first 30 minutes of play. Though either leading or drawn for the entirety of the opening half, they could attain a maximum two-goal lead. Just as the clock reached zeros at halftime, freshman midfielder Olivia Hompe took an assist from sophomore attack Alex Bruno and had to beat only the keeper for a buzzer beater shot.
Impressively, the Tigers managed to keep Virginia’s Courtney Swan from scoring through the first period. A member of the Tewaaraton Watch List, Swan has tallied a wild 27 goals through her team’s nine games. But the first half edge for Princeton came in the transition game. Errors forced and unforced meant that Virginia would convert only two of their six clearing attempts.
The Tigers and Cavaliers traded goals throughout the first half of the second period. At the 17:47 mark, the home side broke open a three-goal lead off a Hompe goal on the doorstep. A four-goal advantage came just before the 15-minute mark as Lloyd drove hard past her defender and to the crease for her third of four goals.
Virginia could not muster enough offense to cut substantially into the Princeton lead. With just over three minutes to play, the Cavaliers, trailing by two, increased their defensive pressure by frequently doubling the ball. High-pressure passes by Princeton managed to keep the Tigers free as their coaches urged them to avoid ill-advised shots.
One more free position shot, with the Cavalier’s goalkeeper out of the crease and in coverage, gave Lloyd one more goal at the 1:51 mark. Virginia was unable to keep pace with this 15-goal effort from their opponents.
Eight, or over half, of Princeton’s goals against Virginia came assisted. This statistic reflects the team’s propensity to seek out the open player and extra pass.
On her team’s pointed passing, coach Sailer explained, “It’s something we’ve been practicing all week. We were actually expecting them to play us with double-teaming on the ball a little earlier than they did. So we were really working on making the next pass and looking on the back-side for kids who could sneak in. And you saw a couple of great goals were scored that way.”`
Coach Sailer highlighted the play of her freshmen, including defender Amanda Leavell who notched three draw controls. Her classmate Doherty recorded two goals on three shots. Her 13 goals on the season ties Bruno for the team lead.
“I feel like all of our freshmen really grew up today,” Sailer said of the Virginia win. “They performed well under a lot of pressure. We were without McMunn who’s been our quarterback and leading scorer. [Senior attack Mary] Case-Sivilli did a great job leading the offense along with our middies Lloyd and Slifer.”