Princeton Women’s Lacrosse (12–5 overall, 6–1 conference) takes on the Syracuse University Orange (9–9, 1–6) today in the first round of the NCAA Division I tournament. After dominating the Ivy League in conference play, the Tigers look to continue their hot streak in the postseason, with the national championship in mind.
The Tigers are in peak form, fresh off of a six-game win streak and winning eight out of their last nine games. Currently ranked 18th in the nation according to the latest NCAA poll, the Tigers are looking to extend their dominance of the 2018 season. After cruising through Ivy League regular season play, Princeton easily defeated Columbia (6–10, 3–4) in the conference tournament semifinals, bringing them to the championship game against Penn (13–4, 6–1). In the final, the Tigers and the Quakers were neck and neck at half, Princeton with seven and Penn with six. The team pulled through in the end, clinching the Ivy League Championship for the second year in a row.
The Tigers started off the season with mixed success, earning victories over non-conference opponents Temple (9–8, 4–5), Lehigh (13–6, 7–2), and Big 10 powerhouse Penn State (10–9, 3–3), while losing to the University of Virginia (9–9, 4–3). Ivy League play saw a win against Brown (9–6, 2–5) and their only conference defeat to Dartmouth (11–5, 5–2). The turning point in their season, according to head coach Chris Sailer, was their game against Syracuse in late March.
“I personally feel like we won that game,” Sailer said. “At the time Syracuse had been playing really well, and that half we played was the best half we played all year.”
The team went down in the first half 9–5 but roared back in the second half with 11 goals to Syracuse’s eight. Despite their stellar performance, the Tigers fell one goal short of a win. Still, the game represented a shift in Princeton’s dynamic.
“We just took off from there after that game,” said Sailer. “We knew what was possible for us if we played well.”
The newly invigorated Tigers sprang into action, winning six out of their seven games, with their only loss to no. 3-ranked Maryland (18–1, 7–0), by one goal.
Now, Princeton and Syracuse face off in a game with much higher stakes. A loss means instant elimination from the tournament and a farewell to all hopes of lifting the Division I championship trophy.
Whoever wins the first-round game will go up against the Boston College Eagles (19–1, 7–0), currently ranked second in the nation. The Eagles dominated this season, with a perfect conference record and only one loss overall. They also lost in last year’s championship final, to Maryland.
If the Tigers progress to the quarterfinals, they will face the winner of the currently ranked no. 1 in the nation and undefeated SUNY Stony Brook (19–0, 7–0) and Penn or Penn State game.
In order to win today’s game, “we just have to execute the fundamentals of the game well, both offensively and defensively,” according to Sailer. And Syracuse better watch out — the Orange will be facing a “vastly different team than the first time we played them, with different kids in different positions, and a solidified goal keeper.”