Women's Soccer: Tigers secure 7-0 Ivy season, NCAA berth
After defeating Cornell 5-1 on Oct. 27, the women’s soccer team found itself on the brink of glory. The Tigers needed just one more win to clinch the outright Ivy League title and to become one of the few teams to go 7-0 in conference play. The only team standing in their way was Penn, the same team that ended Princeton’s title hopes two years ago at Roberts Stadium.
Playing on the same field, the Tigers were determined to see a different outcome and they got it. Behind sophomore midfielder Lauren Lazo’s three-goal effort and senior midfielder Caitlin Blosser’s put-away score, Princeton (13-3-1 overall, 7-0 Ivy League) defeated the Quakers (9-6-1, 5-2) 4-2 and earned a bid to the NCAA tournament.
“Losing the way we did in our sophomore year definitely added more motivation,” Blosser said. “All of us knew that we weren’t going to stop, that we weren’t going to let them beat us. We knew that we were going to win it. We had all of the confidence in each other.”
The Tigers showed their motivation in the opening minutes of the game, taking little time to get on the board. After capturing Ivy League Player of the Week honors for her three goals in the previous two games, Lazo continued her hot streak when she launched a shot from just outside the box that found the inside of the left post, giving Princeton an early lead in the 13th minute.
The sophomore would eventually complete her first collegiate hat trick, but she almost didn’t get a chance to do so. About 20 minutes into the half, Lazo bumped heads with a Penn player, a collision that forced the sophomore to the sidelines. Lazo would return to the game shortly after the scare.
The Tigers continued to press the Quakers’ defense for the rest of the half, but they didn’t convert again until the 43rd minute, when Lazo collected a loose ball after senior midfielder Rachel Sheehy had served it into the box. Penn goalie Sarah Banks was helpless as Lazo had time to set up her shot and execute it perfectly. The half ended with Princeton holding a comfortable 2-0 lead.
In the first half, Penn’s offense was fairly quiet, putting up three shots to Princeton’s seven. The Quakers put together several runs down the left flank, but the Princeton defense thwarted each, with junior defender Diane Metcalf-Leggette sliding in to break up Penn’s most dangerous attack.
The Quakers had more offensive success in the second half, however. After Lazo put Princeton up 3-0 in the 56th minute when she converted a pass from senior forward Jen Hoy on a breakaway, Penn’s Clara Midgley scored in the 65th and 74th minutes to bring the Quakers within one goal. The second goal led the Tigers to form a group huddle to regain their focus.
“We were defending and sitting back too much,” Blosser said. “After the second goal we looked at each other and said we need to keep working hard. We are not giving this up. We are not going to let them come back in this game.”
Princeton did just that, and the Tigers began to play more aggressively. Ten minutes later, Hoy led a breakaway in which she and Banks got tripped up fighting for the ball. It popped out and found the feet of Blosser, who drove it into the net to put the game away.
“After that goal, it was a culmination of everything — the last four years, everything we worked for this season,” Blosser said. “We knew that we’ve done it. We’ve won. We not only completed an amazing season, we went undefeated which is so special. It’s so hard to do. It was really emotional.”
The post-game celebration consisted of the presentation of the Ivy League trophy, followed by the players dumping the contents of their water container onto longtime head coach Julie Shackford.
“Our [senior] goalie Kristin Watson brought it up and said: ‘When we win, we are going to pour the water on Shacks,’ ” Blosser said.
With the win, Princeton now has a chance to extend its 11-game winning streak in the postseason. The Tigers will learn their first-round opponent during the NCAA selection show, which begins at 4:30 p.m. this afternoon.
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