After a brilliant performance against the No. 2 North Carolina team, the women’s soccer team looked to recreate the magic against UCLA in the NCAA quarterfinals. Despite a strong performance, the Tigers were unable to pull off another upset as they lost to the Bruins, 3-1. The loss ended Princeton’s historic quarterfinal run — the best performance by a Princeton team since 2004, when the Orange and Black advanced to the semifinals.
The Bruins had a dream start to the match, bringing the home crowd into the game with two early goals in the 16th and 18th minutes. UCLA’s Hailie Mace started the scoring with a strong header in the box to put the Bruins on the board. This was quickly followed by tap-in from Oliva Athens to double the Bruin advantage. The goals were well deserved, as UCLA dominated the first half, outshooting the Princeton side 13-1. The Bruins also managed to draw six corners to Princeton’s zero.
However, the Tigers would come alive the in the second half of the game. Princeton cut the deficit in half in the 55th minute on the counterattack. Sophomore forward Abby Givens slid past the defenders to receive a well-weighted pass from sophomore midfielder Courtney O’Brien. Unfortunately, the Bruins would quickly respond as Mace found the back of the net again to complete a brace. UCLA would go on to win the game 3-1. Sophomore goalkeeper Natalie Grossi finished the game with an impressive 10 saves.
Despite the loss, the Tigers have plenty to be proud of this season. This was the 12th time in program history the Tigers had qualified for the NCAA tournament and the third time in the last six years. This quarterfinal run was the best Princeton performance since 2004, when the Tigers made a semi-final appearance: they were knocked out by the Bruins that year as well. En route to their quarterfinal appearance, the Tigers outscored their opponents 44-11 and boasted a 16-3-1 record. This was the second most wins in program history.
The Princeton team earned an all-time high nine All-Ivy League honors. Senior midfielder Vanessa Gregoire won the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year. Gregoire will end her career as the program’s all-time assist leader, with 27. Head Coach Sean Driscoll also earned recognition as Ivy League Coach of the Year.
The Tigers will undoubtedly look to repeat their success next season, and it looks like they retain much of their firepower to do so. Princeton will retain some of its top scorers in Givens (12), junior forward Mimi Asom (10) and O’Brien (nine). Princeton will also retain Grossi, who managed a record 11 shutouts this season. The future looks bright for the Tigers as they look to build upon their strong performances.