Last Thursday, the women’s soccer team saw its 12-game win streak and season come to an end with a 3-1 loss to No. 12 Marquette in the second round of the NCAA tournament. While the Tigers undoubtedly hoped to advance further in the tournament, they still have much to be proud of.
Princeton (14-4-1 overall) enjoyed its best season since 2004, winning the Ivy League title with a perfect 7-0 record and producing a program-best eight players who received All-Ivy recognition. Those feats are hard to come by on their own, but may be considered even more remarkable given that the Tigers had more than their share of injuries this season. Four key players — sophomore forward Liana Cornacchio, junior midfielder Erika Hoglund, junior defender Kacie Kergides and sophomore midfielder Melissa Downey — all tore ACLs over the course of the season.
Princeton was further limited in its game against Marquette as senior defender Alison Nabatoff played the entire 90 minutes with an injured ACL, while sophomore forward Lynessa McGee was out of the lineup due to an injury suffered in the Tigers’ first round game against West Virginia. Yet the Tigers still put up a strong fight against Marquette. When sophomore forward Lauren Lazo put Princeton ahead 1-0 in the 11th minute, the Tigers became one of only three teams this season to hold a lead over the Golden Eagles. Princeton maintained the lead for 33 minutes before Marquette came back with three unanswered goals to thwart the upset bid.
In the tournament, Princeton proved that it could hold its own against some of the top teams in the nation, but the Tigers started off the season on a fairly shaky note. The team had a losing record of 2-3-1 over its first six games, including its worst loss of the season, a 7-0 shutout at the hands of then-No. 3 UCLA.
“As embarrassing and horrible as [the UCLA loss] was in the moment, it completely changed our outlook and work ethic for the rest of the year,” Lazo said. “From that point on, it humbled us in the sense that we knew that there were teams out there that were so much better than us. If we wanted to be successful, we needed to put in the work and put in the time. After that point, practice got better and we held ourselves to a higher standard. It was great that happened before the Ivy League because we went in thinking, okay, if we can play against UCLA, we can play against anybody.”
After stepping off the plane back from California, the Tigers were a new team. They swept the rest of their regular season games, outscoring their opponents 39-12 in that span. Princeton finished its season as the sixth-ranked offense in the nation, averaging 2.74 goals per game, which was largely due to the 29 combined goals from the duo of Lazo and senior forward Jen Hoy, the Ivy League Player of the Year.
However, the Tigers’ success this season went well beyond their potent offense; it was also due to the team culture created by the senior class.
“The success of the team can 100 percent be brought back to the senior leadership both on and off the field,” Lazo said. “I think the biggest difference between this year and last year is just that support and the confidence that the seniors contributed and that rubbed off on everyone else.”
Princeton will have a different look next season without the Class of 2013. In addition to setting the tone in the locker room, seniors composed more than half of the Tigers’ starting lineup by the end of the season.
“We are going to miss the seniors a lot, and they helped us be so successful this year,” Lazo said. “But we are excited for what is to be in the future and hopefully we can continue having great seasons like we had this year.”
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/11/20/31890/