Under the lights at the Class of 1952 Stadium’s Sherrerd Field this Friday, women’s lacrosse (10-5 overall, 6-1 Ivy League) will take on Cornell (7-8, 4-3) in the semifinals of the Ivy League Tournament. The Tigers hold home-field advantage in the conference postseason due to their league-best regular season record.
Sophomore defender Liz Bannantine, a member of the back line which held opponents to under 10 goals per game, expressed confidence in her team’s chances.
“I think we know what we need to do in this game,” she explained. “We’ve done a lot of scouting and preparation for what they’re going to bring at us. If we stick to our game plan and play the way we’ve been playing, we should have success this weekend.”
Earlier this week, Ivy League honors were announced. Five All-Ivy selections, including four first-teamers, reflected the convincing way in which Princeton won the regular season conference title. Senior midfielder Sarah Lloyd earned a unanimous Midfielder of the Year award, while her classmate and fellow captain Colleen Smith likewise was a unanimous selection for the first-team at defense.
Bannantine, a second-team selection herself, says the recognition is a testament not only to the individual brilliance of her teammates, but also to the totality of team efforts and the outstanding leadership provided by older players.
“I think it’s really a reflection of our team as a whole and all the work we’ve put in,” Bannantine said. “Especially our senior leadership this year. It’s an acknowledgement of their leadership and what they’ve done for a team as a whole. All eight of the seniors are really incredible role models.”
Last year’s Ivy League Attacker of the Year, junior Erin McMunn, has reprised her role as centerpiece of the Princeton offense. Her 41 points — 30 goals and 11 assists — lead the team.
Alongside McMunn, the Tigers have balance in scoring. Four of their players have scored 30-plus points with eight having scored above 20.
On the season, Princeton has a slight edge over its opponents in draw controls by a 186-180 margin. According to Bannantine, “Draw controls are super important. That’s something we’ve been focusing on. Draw controls lead to possessions, which lead to goals.”
Due in part to a number of upset losses early in the season, requisite national media respect has yet to come for the Princeton women. The coaches’ poll has the Tigers ranked No. 16, with the Brine Women’s Media Poll placing them at No. 18. Bannantine noted that her team does not take much stock of the weekly rankings.
“We know what our goals are,” she said. “We’ve come out pretty strong against some top 10 teams, like Penn and UVA. But I don’t think that’s really a priority for us. Our main opponents are Ivy teams. So we just try to come out strong against them.”
A three-game Princeton win streak came to an end last Saturday at Penn State by a final score of 13-12. When asked what the Tigers had learned from last week’s close loss, Bannantine replied, “Definitely to keep calm and poised when other teams go on runs. Lacrosse really is a game when both teams will string together a couple goals. But I think you need to stay collected and focus on getting the next draw control or ground ball. So we have to keep in mind the things we did wrong in that game, but also the things we did right. We did have five unanswered goals, so even if we’re down two or three, we still have a chance of winning.”
Earlier this year, the Tigers and the Big Red were tied 7-7 at the end of regulation. Three overtime goals for Princeton gave them a 10-7 edge in the end, good for the program’s 400th win.
Cornell’s revenge would likely come off the stick of Lindsay Toppe, a unanimous first-team All-Ivy selection at attack. Her 47 goals set the pace in the conference. Counterpart Emily Tripodi provided a prolific 36 assists over 14 games.
Should the Tigers move on from Friday night’s contest, they would face the winner of the afternoon’s game between Penn and Harvard. Princeton outmatched both of these potential opponents during the same week of play, topping the Crimson by a score of 15-6 and the Quakers 9-5.
Even with a potential title tantalizingly close, Bannantine and her teammates look to focus on the game at hand.
“We’re pretty confident going into the tournament,” the defender explained. “We’ve had a good run this season against the other Ivy teams: good starts and really good first halves where we’ve gotten up by five or six goals. But I think we know we have to start with a new mindset. A lot of the teams have gotten better over the course of the season. I know Cornell had a very close loss to Syracuse, who’s a super good team this year. So we’re taking everything with a new outlook, having prepared a lot this week. We’re not looking ahead at anything, just focusing on Cornell.”