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Women's lacrosse wins at Virginia to kick off coach's final season

<h5>The 16th-ranked Tigers celebrate a goal during their season-opening win.</h5>
<h6>Courtesy of Brian McWalters/GoPrincetonTigers.com</h6>
The 16th-ranked Tigers celebrate a goal during their season-opening win.
Courtesy of Brian McWalters/GoPrincetonTigers.com

The Tigers have been let out of their cage.

No. 16 Princeton, who was also unanimously chosen as the top team in the Ivy League preseason poll, beat No. 10 Virginia 17–11 in their season opener on Sunday, Feb. 20. The game was the first the Tigers have played in nearly two years and was the first game of Head Coach Chris Sailer’s final season before retirement. Sailer, who has coached Princeton women’s lacrosse for 35 years, has won 15 Ivy League championships and three NCAA Championships with the program during her tenure.

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To get the season started on the right foot, senior attacker Kyla Sears quickly scored the first goal only 21 seconds into the game. Virginia Cavaliers attacker Morgan Schwab then managed to get a goal past Princeton senior goalkeeper Sam Fish, tying the game at 1–1. A goal each by sophomore midfielder Kari Buonanno and Sears put the Tigers ahead by a score of 3–1 later in the quarter. Virginia managed to get another goal to halve the Tigers’ lead, but Princeton junior midfielder Maria Pansini scored with four seconds left to finish the first quarter 4–2.

Buonanno scored another goal in the first two minutes of the second quarter, but Virginia came out strong, scoring two goals back-to-back to cut the deficit to 5–4. However, Princeton came back swiftly, scoring another two goals within 12 seconds by first-year midfielder Nina Montes and then by senior defender Marge Donovan to bring the score to 7–4. Virginia scored again, but the Tigers went on a two-goal run by sophomore attacker Grace Tauckus and Buonanno to put the game at 9–5; Buonanno’s goal was an impressive buzzer-beater to close out the first half with a strong four-point lead.

Virginia tried to fight against Princeton’s lead, scoring a goal at the start of the third quarter, but Tauckus, first-year midfielder Sophie Whiteway, and first-year midfielder McKenzie Blake rattled off three goals to put Princeton ahead 12–6. 

In the fourth quarter, two goals by Blake and a third by Whiteway widened the gap with the Cavaliers to 15–6. Virginia fought back again, scoring two goals within ten seconds, bringing the score to 15–8. But, this was no match against the Tigers, who scored again, thanks to Tauckus. The final goal from sophomore attacker Ellie Mueller put the final score at 17–11, giving Princeton the victory in their season opener.

Stars for the Tigers included Kari Buonanno, who tied her all-time career high of four goals, as well as Whiteway, Montes, and Mueller, whose goals were the first of their careers. Sears, meanwhile, netted two goals to move her up to No. 6 on Princeton’s all-time scoring ranking with 209 points. 

The Tigers were also helped by fantastic plays in goal. While Princeton had barely outshot Virginia (34–33), the Cavaliers were no match for Fish, who saved 15 of Virginia’s shots. While this season will be her last, this win marks the 30th won season opener for Sailer.

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The Tigers will be back at home to play Temple on Saturday, Feb. 26 at 12 p.m. 

Lizzie Evanko is an Associate Sports Editor at the ‘Prince.’ She can be reached at eevanko@princeton.edu.

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