Every year in Ivy League lacrosse is going to be a battle. This Princeton women’s lacrosse team has not been without its ups and downs, and has had their fair share of close encounters in their seven games of league play.
At the end of the day, however, a win is a win. And a perfect record is a perfect record.
The Tigers (12-3 overall, 7-0 Ivy League) are the regular season Ivy League champions, after having to share the title last year with the University of Pennsylvania Quakers. They won an end-to-end victory on Saturday afternoon, defeating the Brown Bears (7-8, 1-6) 14-8.
It would be natural for the players to put a lot of pressure on themselves in this one as they try to secure an uncontested Ivy League title. Senior attack Erin Slifer, however, noted that the team’s success depended on their treating this game as any other.
“We knew that Brown was the game that would determine our fate for the Ivy League but we didn't want to make it any bigger than any other of Ivy games.” Slifer said “Each game was an Ivy League championship and Brown was the finishing touch.”
The Tigers were able to celebrate a relatively calm Senior Day, as they jumped all over Brown early and prevented the Bears from ever re-establishing themselves in the game. Particularly strong performances came from senior attacks Erin McMunn and Slifer. McMunn played her last regular season game as a Tiger in stellar form, racking up five goals and dishing out one assist. Slifer, for her part, put in three goals on the game. Moreover, just as remarkable as their high goal tallies was their efficiency: both McMunn and Slifer had a 75 percent shot percentage on the game.
The one unpleasant moment in the game was the opening goal, scored by the Bears just 1:32 minutes into the game. Instead of standing around shell-shocked, the Tigers came roaring back, scoring six goals over a 23-minute period and holding Brown to none throughout that time span. The Tigers entered the locker rooms up 7-3, looking to continue throttling the Bears in the second.
It was more of the same in the second. The Tigers clamped down on any chance of a run against them, not allowing consecutive goals by the Bears at any time. Meanwhile, that Tiger offense just kept on churning, getting in goal after goal. The flow of the second half never seemed on Brown’s side. So many times the Tigers would get a stop and have midfielders sprinting out ahead to feed the hungry attacks. Brown looked unable to stop the onslaught.
Certainly, much credit needs to go to McMunn, Slifer and a strong squad of Princeton lacrosse seniors. However, seniors weren’t the only source of production for the game. Sophomore midfielders Olivia Hompe and Anna Doherty put up two and one goals, respectively, on the day, as Hompe passed the 100-point mark for her career. Junior midfielder Anya Gersoff and junior attack Stephanie Paloscio each put in a goal, as Paloscio would also record an assist on the game.
Paloscio appears to be heating up at the right time: her performance this weekend follows a three-assist game from last week’s victory over Columbia. She reiterated a point many members of the Princeton attacking squad have said — the success of the offense is built on the fact that everyone who steps on the field poses a threat.
“I think one thing about our attack is that every player on our team who enters the game is a big threat," Paloscio said. "We like to share the ball — our senior captains, who play on the attack, Erin Slifer and McMunn, have set a great precedence for attackers who are unselfish and share the ball. When I get three assists, it’s because I’m looking out for other people. When I’m scoring, people are looking for me.”
However, the most intense part of the season is yet to come. As regular season Ivy League champions, the Tigers get the opportunity to host all the games of the Ivy League Championship Tournament. This Friday, they will take on the Harvard Crimson (8-7, 4-3), fourth in the league. The players from Cambridge have had little luck against Princeton in recent years — Harvard has not won a game against Princeton since the 2012 season.
Against the two other teams in the tournament, the Cornell Big Red (9-5, 4-2) and the Quakers (11-3, 5-1), halting runs have been an issue both this year and last. Slifer pointed out that stopping these runs was a key focus point on defense.
“A goal for our defensive unit is to prevent runs and we executed thaton Saturday," Slifer said. “Moving forward, our goal is to continue limiting other teams runs and minimize our offensive turnovers so that we do not need to overcome deficits.”
Paloscio notes that when the other team does go on such uncontested runs, the offense has to be flexible and maintain its composure.
“It’s a patience thing. I think we are a great attack … sometimes if we’re playing a team that likes to kill the ball and have long possessions against us, we need to emulate that.” Paloscio said, explaining how the Tigers may need to move away at times from the high-tempo offense they’re used to running. “That’s definitely a point of emphasis, especially in Ivy League games. We’ve had the target on our back, and I think teams have tried to play long possessions against us. We get a little antsy when we finally get the ball. That’s been something that we’ve learned this that will help us as we go into postseason play – to make sure we have long attacks that end in goals.”
While the postseason may be a totally different setting than the regular season, Slifer insists that the plan for the team is the same as always – be thorough in every aspect of the game, down to the minutiae.
“We plan to play with intensity and stick to our game plan while keeping a level head.” Slifer said “We know that we can beat any team when we play our best and execute the little things.”
Paloscio pointed out that, in the Ivy League, no win is ever certain.
“When you step on the field, it’s anyone’s game," Paloscio said. “Every game has been a fight … we just know that’s going to continue as the games go on. We’ve treated every game as the Ivy League championship, so that’s what’s going to happen from here on out.