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Tigers host No. 6 Virginia before west coast trip

Wlax_ConorDubeFollowing back-to-back one-goal overtime losses, the Princeton women’s lacrosse team will look to rebound in its three games over spring break. The squad will host No.6 Virginia (3-4 overall, 0-2 ACC) at home on Saturday afternoon before making the team’s only trip to the West Coast this season. Once in California, Princeton will take on USC (1-2, 0-0 Pac-12) Wednesday afternoon and San Diego State (5-1, 2-0 MPSF) on Saturday evening.

The Tigers enter this three-game stretch with a chip on their shoulder. Although Princeton did receive some votes, the squad failed earn a top-20 ranking for the first time this season after consecutive overtime losses to Georgetown (3-2, 0-0 Big East) and Brown (5-0, 2-0 Ivy League). With Virginia set to visit Princeton on Saturday, the Tigers know they will need to make some changes if they wish to regain a top-20 ranking. According to head coach Chris Sailer, maintaining possession will be key in every matchup.

“We need to do a better job of controlling possession in our offensive end. We’ve been scoring mostly off of transition and going for quick looks in our settled attack, and consequently, we’ve played a lot of defense over the past few games,” Sailer said. “We’ve got to become more patient on offense and make better decisions. Right now, we’re too antsy to shoot and forcing things that aren’t there.”

This lack of substantial possession has taken a particularly strong toll on the Tigers in overtime, stemming from inopportune losses on draw controls. Princeton conceded goals before possessing the ball at all in both of the recent overtime losses.

“Of course, winning the draw control battles is the other key component to pulling out close or overtime games,” Sailer said. “We have yet to touch the ball in overtime, and that has to change for us to turn those close losses into victories.”

It will certainly have to change for the Tigers to contain Virginia’s high-powered offense on Saturday. The Cavaliers, despite falling 14-10 to No. 1 North Carolina last weekend, are averaging over 14 points per game and dropped William & Mary by a large 22-9 deficit on Wednesday. Princeton will need to not only possess the ball on offense but also to limit Virginia’s scoring chances if the squad hopes to pull out a victory.

“Virginia has a high-powered offense, with multiple players who are able to put the ball in the net. For us to be successful against them defensively, we need to execute the little aspects of our defense well. Angles of approach, containing the ball outside, being in good position off-ball, basically dictating the play so that we dictate to Virginia, rather than give them what they want,” Sailer said.

Following the home game against Virginia, the Tigers will spend the second half of their spring break in California. Princeton’s players will not have much time to relax on the beach, however, since they will need to focus their attention on USC and San Diego State before returning to Ivy League competition the following week. This stretch might just set the tone for the remainder of the Tigers’ season, and the squad knows what it needs to accomplish.

“I’d like to see us really begin to assert ourselves on the field; not to sit back and let an opponent dictate play, but to be a force from the get-go. Battling and winning 50/50 balls sets the tone for that,” Sailer said. “We’ve watched a lot of film and seen the things we’re excelling at and where we’ve fallen short, individually and collectively, so it will be important for us to make the changes on the field that will bring us success. We want to improve, build and grow as a team throughout the season, and these next three games will give us a great chance to fine-tune our game before we return to conference play.”

Princeton will resume road play after spring break when the Tigers face off against Cornell (4-1, 1-1) on March 29.

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