The 2017 Princeton women’s soccer season has had its fair share of exciting, big time games. But none compare to the Tigers’ stunning 2–1 victory over North Carolina, advancing them to the NCAA quarterfinals in the most exciting, high-stakes game of the season.
Familiar faces and veteran leadership led the Tigers to their wins against the No. 2-ranked team in the nation and the No. 1 seed in Princeton’s corner of the bracket. Junior forward Mimi Asom opened the scoring when she scored an unassisted goal after UNC keeper Samantha Leshnak attempted to clear the ball only to have it end up in Asom’s possession. The goal came within the first four minutes of the game, continuing the Tigers’ trend of scoring early in their games. Asom nearly extended the lead to 2–0 later in the first half, but Leshnak made a nice save to keep the game at 1–0. Moments later, UNC would get on the board when Bridgette Andrzejewski launched a header into the Tigers’ net for her eighth goal of the season. With the game tied at 1, both teams prepared for an exciting and hard-fought second half.
Neither team seemed willing to give in during the second half as the defenses kept this game knotted at 1 apiece. The Tigers weathered the storm of two separate UNC flurries, one during the 50th minute and another that began during the 62nd minute. Perhaps the most nerve-wracking time for the Tigers came in the final minutes of the second half; after a shot by Alessia Russo was saved by sophomore keeper Natalie Grossi, senior defender Mikaela Symanovich received a yellow card leading to a shot by Joanna Boyles that hit the crossbar and foiled the Tar Heels’ best chance of winning the game. Grossi would finish the game with seven saves in net, while the Princeton defense faced 24 shots in the game. The second half ended quietly after that flurry of shots, and the Tigers played their second overtime game in a row.
Unlike the last game, however, this one did not go all the way to penalty kicks. Instead, Princeton ended the game in the 98th minute, when sophomore forward Abby Givens netted her 11th the goal of the season off assists from Asom and senior defender Natalie Larkin. The goal also sent the Tigers into the NCAA quarterfinals where they await the winner of UCLA vs. Virginia. Princeton continues its best tournament run since 2004, when it advanced the the semifinals after a 3–1 victory against Washington in the quarterfinals. The game will be played this Friday or Saturday depending on the outcome of other games.
The Tigers took down the most decorated women’s soccer franchise in a thrilling showdown. With only one more win needed to advance to their second NCAA semifinals, the Tigers are waiting for their turn to etch their name into the history books.