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Second-round loss to Virginia ends Princeton postseason run

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No. 18/17 women’s lacrosse (12-7 overall, 6-1 Ivy League) finished its NCAA Tournament run where it began: at Virginia’s Klockner Stadium. The Tigers faced a tough test this past weekend, drawing against No. 11/8 Penn State (10-7, 3-3 Big 10) on Friday and then against No. 15/11 Virginia (10-8, 3-4 ACC) on Sunday. After emerging from an 8-6 halftime deficit to top the Nittany Lions by a score of 16-13, head coach Chris Sailer’s side could not get past the Cavaliers. The final score of the second round matchup was 13-11 in favor of Virginia, with the home side having taken an early 4-0 advantage and holding a lead throughout.

With a comeback win over Penn State, Princeton ensured that they would advance as far in the NCAA tournament as they have since 2011. In that year, the Tigers got past James Madison before falling in a rout to top-ranked Maryland.

As in 2011, the 2014 campaign provided the immense postseason challenge of playing two games within a 48-hour period. Princeton had spent a great deal of mental and physical energy in upsetting Penn State. Taking down an athletic Virginia side proved just too great a challenge after a quick turnaround both on the road and in sweltering heat.

The two goalkeeping staffs were shaken up by Friday’s contest. Princeton pulled sophomore Anne Whoeling after 10 minutes of play saw four goals against and zero saves by the starter. The change proved effective, as senior Caroline Franke would get credit for the win. The fourth-year keeper tallied 12 saves while allowing nine goals.

Penn State rotated through all three of their keepers. After the halftime break, Cat Raione replaced Emi Smith in the goal. Once Princeton had taken its first two-goal lead of the afternoon, Natalia Angelo relieved Smith for the final 3 minutes, 37 seconds of play. The three Nittany Lion keepers managed one, two and zero saves respectively.

While Friday would not be the hour of the goalie, skilled shooting was mostly to blame for the struggles in the net. Princeton would score on six of seven attempts in the first half and convert 10 of 15 in the second. Penn State came in with a less efficient 13-28 shooting mark. However, the two teams only saw six shots miss the cage.

Junior attacker Erin McMunn showed once again why she should be ranked among the nation’s elite offensive players. Her five points, scored on four goals and an assist, tied for a game high. One of her markers served as a sort of tide-turner, coming at the 27:37 mark in the second half. Before McMunn’s goal, assisted by freshman linemate Olivia Hompe, Penn State held a three-goal advantage which would chipped away by a 3-0 Princeton scoring run.

The Lions’ Maggie McCormick was surgical through thirty minutes, tallying four of her five points in the first frame. Her dissecting of the Tiger defense caused no small measure of anxiety for coach Sailer and her staff. On the whole, the first half defense from Princeton was not up to its usual standards. It’s fair to say that they missed the presence of their stalwart leader: senior Colleen Smith. Slides were late and Penn State players found open looks at the cage.

The first period saw four failed clears and 11 turnovers by Princeton. The second half would be a different story, with the Tigers turning the ball over five times — that’s about average — and successfully advancing the ball into the offensive zone seven times on seven attempts.

A first round victory set the stage for the Tigers’ meeting with another long-time rival. Virginia and Princeton have collided fairly regularly. Among non-Ivy foes, the Cavaliers have been the third-most common opponent for the Orange and Black, behind Maryland and Penn State. The series record was an even 16-16 coming into Sunday’s game. What’s more, both Princeton and Virginia held 1-3 records against opponents common between the sides during the 2014 season.

As of this year, the Princeton women have featured 22 times in the NCAA Tournament. In nine of those instances, the competition’s bracket has pitted Orange and Black against Orange and Blue. With the win on Sunday, the Cavaliers took the edge over their rivals with a 5-4 advantage.

The home field advantage would prove crucial for the Virginia side. Additionally, the home team was inspired to avenge the 14-8 loss their men had suffered against Johns Hopkins on the same field just one hour prior.

The Cavaliers jumped out to an imposing 4-0 lead thanks to an early hat trick by All-ACC attacker Courtney Swan. The junior Tewaaraton Trophy candidate was sensational throughout, tallying four goals and two assists to lead the game in points.

Freshman midfielder Anna Doherty scored Princeton’s first and her 24th of the season. At the 10:21 mark, junior midfielder Erin Slifer tallied the third goal in a 3-0 Tiger run to narrow the Virginia lead to 5-4. However, this would be the contest’s closest margin, save for 0-0.

As is customary of women’s lacrosse, the two teams scored in bunches. Two Princeton goals came at the beginning of the second half, but four more unanswered Virginia scores made it 12-6 to the home team. Cavaliers Maddy Keeshan and Liza Blue tallied a hat trick each.

In her final game as a Tiger, senior attacker Mary-Kate Sivilli scored a hat trick on just three shots, including goals nine and 10 within a minute of each other. Slifer was prolific on the day, tallying four goals on 11 shots. However, their efforts would be too little too late. Princeton was playing catchup throughout, and they could not catch up to the substantial Virginia advantage.

Goalkeeper Caroline Franke, also playing in her final Princeton contest, would be credited with the loss. She tallied seven saves on the day.

The Cavaliers will advance to the quarterfinals, facing conference rival the University of North Carolina.

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