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Women's lacrosse downs regional rival Penn St.

With 22 minutes, 15 seconds remaining in women's lacrosse's critical non-conference showdown with Penn State Saturday, Princeton led, 10-9. Both teams were preparing for what looked to be a thrilling finish.

It never happened.

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Junior midfielder Cristi Samaras scored back-to-back goals immediately after the Nittany Lions had pulled to within one, igniting an avalanche of seven consecutive Tiger tallies. By the time the Penn State (3-4 overall) players realized what had hit them, Princeton (5-0, 1-0 Ivy League) had built a comfortable lead en route to a 19-12 victory in State College, Pa.

Heading into the game, Tiger head coach Chris Sailer had stressed the importance of containing Nittany Lion midfielder Emily Mechem.

"They go as she goes," Sailer said last Thursday.

Shutdown

Those words proved prophetic as Princeton held Mechem to just one goal and zero assists on the day. Shutting down Penn State's top offensive threat was critical as the Tigers prevailed in a high-scoring affair.

The Nittany Lions jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead within the game's first three minutes. Amazingly, this two-goal disadvantage represents Princeton's largest of the season. Thanks to junior attack Tice Burke, however, the Tigers wasted little time in getting back into the contest.

Burke, who scored three goals and added four assists for a total of seven points, helped Princeton get on the scoreboard when she set up sophomore midfielder Hillary Maddox with 26:03 remaining in the first half.

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After senior attack Brent McCallister scored to tie the game, Samaras – off an assist from Burke – scored the first of her five goals on the afternoon to put the Tigers ahead, 3-2.

Penn State hung tough, and despite two first half-goals each from Samaras, McCallister and senior attack Melissa Cully, the Tigers led just 8-7 at halftime. The two teams traded scores twice to start the second half, setting up Princeton's seven-goal surge.

Subs

After the Nittany Lions had pulled to within 10-9, Sailer sent junior Amber Mettler into the game to replace sophomore Laura Field. Less than seven minutes later, Penn State also inserted its backup netminder, Megan Ames. The contrast between the performances of these two players was striking.

Mettler gave up only three goals in 22 minutes of action, while Ames, a freshman, surrendered seven goals in 16 minutes and did not stop a single Tiger shot. While the Nittany Lions were unable to crack Mettler's armor until it was too late, the Tigers were busy piling up an insurmountable lead by firing shot after shot past Ames.

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Samaras's scoring spree raised her season total to 19 goals. With two-thirds of the campaign still to play, she is on pace to break the single-season school records for both goals and points before postseason play even begins.

Balance

In addition to Burke's seven and Samaras' five, the Tigers had three other players register at least four points in the game. Freshman midfielder Julie Shaner added two goals and two assists, Cully contributed four goals and one assist, while McCallister tallied two goals and two assists.

Although Princeton was able to record its sixth victory in its last seven meetings with Penn State, the Tigers will not have time to rest on their laurels. Friday, they face Atlantic Coast Conference powerhouse Virginia. If Princeton, currently ranked third in the Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association poll, can survive that matchup with the Cavaliers, it would set up a showdown April 8 with No. 2 Temple – a game that would surely catch not just the attention of Philadelphia lacrosse fans, but attract national interest as well.

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