It is often said that the posts are a goaltender's best friend. If sophomore netminder Laura Field didn't already believe in this adage, she certainly does now.
With time running out in women's lacrosse's 6-5 victory over Georgetown Saturday, Princeton was on its heels. After having withstood two Hoya game-tying efforts in the final 30 seconds, the Tigers braced themselves for one last shot.
Georgetown's Sheehan Stanwick fired. The ball flew past Field, but bounced hard off the post. Princeton survived, and improved to 3-0 on the season.
The Hoyas proved to be Princeton's toughest opponent of the week, as the Tigers' other two victories saw them jump out to decisive early leads. In their opening game against Duke on March 15, the Tigers shredded the Blue Devil defense en route to a 16-12 victory. Princeton then delivered an impressive encore performance at William and Mary March 18, jumping ahead 7-1 before hanging on to win, 7-5.
Duke (5-1) entered the game ranked fourth in the country and was fresh off a stunning victory over three-time defending champion Maryland. On this day, however, it was Princeton that looked like the team ready to contend for an NCAA title.
It took junior midfielder Cristi Samaras all of 47 seconds to make her presence felt. In her first game back after a one-season hiatus from the team, the Tiger star took a pass from junior attack Tice Burke and netted Princeton's first goal of the season.
Following that impressive start, the Tigers raced out to a quick 7-2 lead. Princeton never trailed during the game, and although Duke cut its deficit to two during the second half, the Tigers responded with six unanswered goals. Samaras's second and final tally of the contest gave Princeton an insurmountable 15-7 lead with just under 12 minutes remaining.
On a roll
In their victory over William and Mary (1-1), the Tigers used an offensive explosion by Samaras to brighten an otherwise dreary afternoon in Williamsburg, Va.
As Princeton raced to another big second-half lead, Samaras completely dominated the game, scoring five goals, the final two of which came on spectacular unassisted efforts.
In goal, Field did not need any help from the pipes on this afternoon, as she recorded 23 saves and shut out the Tribe for the game's first 37 min., 13 sec. Named the Tigers' starting goaltender just two days before the season-opener, Field has solidified her role as the team's number one netminder.
Another pleasant surprise for Princeton has been the outstanding play of freshman midfielder Julie Shaner. Against Duke, Shaner had a dazzling debut, scoring three goals and adding two assists – all in the first 13 min., 37 sec. of her college career. If this start is any indication of Shaner's future performance, head coach Chris Sailer can look forward to four terrific years from her.
"She's a good playmaker, and a terrific hustler on the field," Sailer said.
Against Georgetown (2-2), the Tigers exchanged leads throughout the contest with their visitors from the nation's capital. Neither team lead by more than a goal in a game that featured five ties.
Hoya goaltender Chris Lindsey was terrific, registering 19 saves and intimidating the Princeton shooters to the point where they were unwilling to settle for anything less than an extremely clear shot.
"We knew Georgetown was going to be up for us," Sailer said. "(Lindsey) had a terrific day."
However, Samaras was finally able to rescue the Tigers. With 9 min., 11 sec. remaining in the contest, she scored her second goal of the game and ninth of the season, putting Princeton ahead, 6-5. The Tigers then held off the Hoyas, and with a little help from the pipe, were able to post their third consecutive victory.
For now, the focus is on winning games, which Princeton has proven it is capable of doing, regardless of the opposition.
With Samaras having already recorded 14 points in three games back, the Tigers appear ready and able to meet any challenge that comes their way.