Lauren Rigney is not the women's basketball team's leading scorer. Nor is she the team's best rebounder. In fact, the agile sophomore leads the team in only one statistic — games started. She is the only player to have started all 23 games for the Tigers.
Though officially listed as a guard, Rigney has played a variety of positions at different times this season. It is her versatility that makes her such a solid contributor.
"[Rigney] is willing to do anything for the team," senior captain Kate Thirolf says. "She's had to play the post this year. She's had to play guard [and] forward. She does whatever the team needs her to do, and obviously we count on her a lot."
The team depends on her so much that, while only in her second season, Rigney is third on the team in minutes played, behind captains Jessica Munson and Maggie Langlas.
Rigney's contributions, however, go far beyond the number of minutes she logs. She is among the top three on the team in rebounds, assists and steals. But beyond the numbers, Rigney also brings a fire and determination to each of the team's games and practices.
"I'm a pretty competitive person — a very competitive person," Rigney says. "And when I'm out there, I'm out there to win."
Winning was not something that Rigney was able to get used to in high school. A four-year varsity basketball player at Marlborough High School, in Marlborough, Mass., Rigney's team finished over .500 only twice.
Despite her team's lack of success, Rigney flourished individually. In her senior year, she became the first player in Marlborough history to score 1,000 career points.
A highly skilled guard and intense defender, Rigney was always assigned to cover her opponents' best guard. These attributes impressed several college coaches, and as a result, she was recruited by multiple schools.
Having finally chosen Princeton, Rigney then had the daunting task of trying to learn the Tigers' complex offensive system. Princeton's deliberate, hard-cutting offense provided a stark change from her high school's wide open style. Nonetheless, it is a change that Rigney has welcomed.
"It's definitely hard [to learn the offense], and I still don't know it perfectly. And I don't think I'm ever going to know it that well," she says.
"I like playing at Princeton because it's more of a team game. There's so much talent here. I like having four players on the floor that you have to play with all the time. And you have to know every move that they make."
Rigney's court savvy has allowed her to make some spectacular plays on offense this year. On a few occasions this season, when she has found herself with the ball in the paint with her back to the basket, she has fired perfect no-look passes to teammates in the corner, setting up open three-point attempts.
"That's kind of a Rigney touch," Thirolf says. "She knows the offense really well. She knows where people will be open."
All prestidigitation aside, Rigney has made her biggest impact this season on defense. In nearly every game, she has been called upon to defend the low-post area — usually the domain of six-foot centers.
Despite giving up a few inches to her opponents, the five feet, 10 inch Rigney has been a solid performer on the blocks all year. In doing so, she has called upon her experience as a post player from her summer league teams in high school.
"I got a little experience over two summers. [But in college], the girls are bigger, they're stronger, and they're faster," she says. "It took a while to get used to it."
Even with Rigney's stellar play down low, Princeton's defense has struggled for most of the season. The Tigers have stumbled to a 6-17 record, instead of competing for the Ivy title. Through it all, Rigney has kept up her intensity.
"It's been a hard season," she says. "To not win and to know that everyone wants to, and that everyone's trying so hard, and everyone's putting in so much effort at practice and in games — that's hard."
After falling to a 1-6 Ivy record in the first half of the league season, the Tigers have dedicated themselves to winning their last seven games. Princeton took two big strides in that direction over the weekend, with wins over Columbia and Cornell — a game in which Rigney led the Tigers with 13 points.
"We're starting to see the results, and with five games left, we're going to see the results for five more games. We're playing to win. That's it," she says.
In a season that has been mostly down for Princeton, Rigney has never faltered. She has earned the respect of players and coaches alike, through her multifaceted games and tireless work ethic.
"She's definitely a leader both vocally and with her actions," sophomore guard Hillary Reser says. "Every single day at practice she's working her ass off. She loves the team so much, and that's so obvious on how hard she works everyday."
Next time you watch a women's basketball game, instead of watching the ball on the perimeter, take a look under the basket. There you will find a tireless defender who has been the heart of her team this season.
"I like to play defense," Rigney says. "I shoot, [but] I don't shoot a lot. I'd rather drive than take the outside shot. I do the little things. I'd rather get the assist. I'd rather set the screen or cut and get someone open. Whatever [the team] needs me to do, I'll do."
It is this attitude that makes Lauren Rigney a complete player, and why she is on the floor at the start of every game.