Despite being the only undefeated team heading into the Ivy League Tournament this weekend, the No. 11 Princeton women’s lacrosse team was also entering into the competition an underdog of sorts against No. 13 Penn. The Quakers had won the last two Ivy League titles, and history can go a long way.
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But after dominating Harvard 15-8 in the tournament semifinal on Friday, the Tigers defeated Penn 14-11 on Sunday to win an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and its first Ivy League Tournament title since 2011.
“Penn has been the dominant team in the Ivies, but we knew that we wanted to get Princeton back on top and be able to compete at the highest level,” coach Chris Sailer said. “We just really worked hard for it.”
Leading the way for Princeton was the Class of 2017, which worked hard to dispel the “sophomore slump” myth as four Tiger sophomores were named to the All-Tournament Team. Midfielder Olivia Hompe’s nine-goal tournament earned her the tournament MVP title. Her career-high six-goal performance against Harvard was just one shy of senior Erin McMunn’s seven-goal Ivy League Tournament record that she set last year.
Another sophomore was also within seconds of breaking a different one of veteran McMunn’s Ivy tournament records: Amanda Leavell opened up the final against the Quakers with a goal just 39 seconds after the whistle, the second-fastest in the tournament history. The record — 35 seconds — belongs to McMunn.
After the exciting start, Princeton and Penn exchanged goals back and forth but managed to keep a 6-4 lead at halftime. Most of the second half went the same way, until Princeton finally took control of Penn’s offense 15 minutes in and took its largest lead at 8-5 off of another Hompe goal. The Tigers fended off a potential last-minute Penn comeback from a 13-10 Quaker deficit by capitalizing on draw controls as well as excellent goalkeeping from sophomore Ellie DeGarmo. The teams traded goals one last time in the final minute before Princeton emerged with the upset. Hompe and senior Erin Slifer led Princeton’s offense with a hat trick each, and sophomore Anna Dougherty and freshman Camille Sullivan followed with two scores apiece. McMunn put up three points, scoring a goal and dishing out two assists.
Sailer praised her sophomores for making plays all over the field throughout the weekend but said that in general, Princeton’s strong play demonstrated the thriving overall team dynamic.
“They believe in themselves and they trust each other,” she said. “They just have great chemistry on the field, and I think that really shows when they play.”
Princeton will make its 23rd appearance in the NCAA Tournament as it will play Fairfield this Friday in the first round. Despite never having faced Princeton in their program history, the Stags might be somewhat familiar with what Coach Sailer has planned: Fairfield’s head coach Laura Field ’00 was a three-time All-Ivy League goalie for Princeton. Sailer, the winningest coach in NCAA history, will be ready, noting that the team is peaking at the right time.
“I know we’re going to be really prepared,” she said. “We’re playing our best lacrosse as we head into tournament time. We want to keep seeing what else we can do on the field.”
Princeton men’s lacrosse ended its season with an 11-10 loss to Yale in the finals of the Ivy League Tournament at Brown May 3. The defeat gave the Tigers a 9-6 record for the season and left them just short of making the NCAA Tournament. Princeton finished in a three-way tie for the Ivy League regular season championship with Brown and Cornell, both of which made the NCAAs, as did Yale, which got the league’s automatic bid to the NCAAs by winning the Ivy Tournament.
Princeton came agonizing close to getting that bid. The Tigers beat Cornell 11-7 in the Ivy semifinals on May 1, avenging a 15-10 to the Big Red in Ithaca six days earlier. Goalie Tyler Blaisdell ’18 made 14 saves, and senior Mike MacDonald added to his legacy as one of the greatest attackmen ever to play at Princeton with four goals and two assists, giving him 47 and 30 for the year and breaking Jon Hess ’98’s school record for most points in a season. MacDonald and Brown’s Dylan Molloy were chosen as the Ivy League Players of the Year.
The win set up a rematch with Yale, which beat Brown 10-6 in the other semifinal. The Bulldogs had fallen to Princeton 11-10 on March 21. The Tigers led that one most of the way, but the Ivy title game went back and forth, featuring five ties in the second half, the last at 9-9 midway through the fourth quarter. Kip Orban ’15 helped keep Princeton in the contest with four goals, which gave him 45 for the year — the most by a Division I midfielder this year, and the most ever by a Princeton middie. Like MacDonald, Orban was a unanimous selection to the All-Ivy League first team.
But Orban’s heroics weren’t enough for a second win over Yale, which went up 11-9 on a goal with 4:27 left and survived a last-second shot from midfielder Zach Currier ’17 after MacDonald scored with 27 seconds left to cut the deficit to one. Though MacDonald and Orban graduate, the Tigers return the rest of their starters and will also bring back Will Reynolds ’17 and Mark Strabo ’16, both of whom missed the season with concussions. By David Marcus ’92
Saturday was a good day around the boathouse for the Princeton crew program. The No. 8 open women topped USC in the regular-season finale, and the women’s lightweight team picked up the bronze at Eastern Sprints. The men’s lightweight team lost the main varsity eight race to Columbia, but won out its second- and third-varsity competitions. The most thrilling spectacle came from the men’s heavyweight team. The No. 4 Princeton heavies rallied against Brown to just edge out the Bears at the last second to win first.
The No. 9 women’s water polo team picked up an easy 12-2 win over Wager College in the NCAA play-in game on Saturday, qualifying the Tigers for the NCAA quarterfinals this weekend. Princeton will play Sanford, which won its third NCAA title in four years last season. The tournament will take place at the Cardinal’s home pool in Stanford, Calif.