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The Garden State Rivalry: No. 23 women’s lacrosse wins their home opener against No. 22 Rutgers

No.23 Princeton women's lacrosse defeated Rutgers in the local NJ rivalry 13–10 on Wednesday night.
Photo courtesy of @princetonwlax/X

Strong offensive surges led No. 23-ranked Princeton women’s lacrosse (2–1 overall, 0–0 Ivy League) to a 13–10 win over the No. 22 Rutgers Scarlet Knights (4–1 overall, 0–0 Big Ten) in their home opener at Sherrerd Field on Wednesday night.

The Scarlet Knights struck first, with midfielder Payton Tini netting a goal three minutes into the first quarter. In her first season at Rutgers, Tini has scored eight goals in five games and has recorded four assists.


The Tigers responded shortly after. Senior attacker Ellie Mueller ripped a shot bordering the crease to tie the game at one a piece. Despite suffering a season-ending injury midway through the 2023 season, Mueller tallied 31 draw controls and 11 goals in her 10 games as a starter. She has since started all three games for Princeton in the 2024 season.

“I am so grateful to be back,” Mueller told The Daily Princetonian postgame. “It has been a long road, but my teammates and coaches have been an incredible support system throughout the process.”

In the next five minutes, the Tigers were outscored 3–0 by the Scarlet Knights, giving Rutgers a 4–1 lead. With three minutes left in the first quarter, however, Princeton flipped the switch. Senior midfielder Kari Buonanno kicked off the Tigers’ run with a goal assisted by Mueller. Buonanno was a unanimous first-team All-Ivy selection last season and an Inside Lacrosse Midseason All-American. Buonanno has scored in each of Princeton’s matches this season and contributed six assists.

By the end of the first quarter, the game was tied 4–4, with the following goals coming from junior attacker McKenzie Blake and sophomore attacker Jami MacDonald. 

Entering the second period of play, there was no momentum shift. The Tigers continued their scoring run less than 20 seconds into the quarter, with a goal off of a free position shot from sophomore attacker Haven Dora ’26, giving the Tigers their first lead of the game. Shortly after, Blake netted her second goal of the game with an assist from senior attacker Grace Tauckus, putting the Tigers up 6–4. 

The game proved to be more defensive for the rest of the quarter. Sophomore goalkeeper Amelia Hughes made a crucial save with 11 minutes left in the second quarter playing two players down. Hughes had 16 saves against the Scarlet Knights.


“We have Amelia to thank for maintaining our momentum and taking opportunities away from Rutgers,” Mueller said to the ‘Prince.’ 

Tauckus broke the 11-minute scoring drought with a goal assisted by Buonanno at three minutes left in the half. A minute later, Rutgers netted their first goal in 17 minutes to send the game to the break with a score of 7–5.

The rest of the game was all Tigers. Princeton outscored Rutgers 5–2 in the third quarter, courtesy of senior midfielder Samantha DeVito, MacDonald, Blake, and first-year midfielder Ella Sloan. 

“We knew we had to start the third quarter with our foot on the gas,” Dora told the ‘Prince.’ “It was important for us to stay composed, support each other through everything, and to play our game and take control.”

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With one quarter left to play, Princeton led 12–7.

The Scarlet Knights sought a fourth quarter comeback, scoring two goals in the first four minutes of the final period of play. The Tigers, however, stayed composed. Princeton’s final goal came from DeVito, assisted by Sloan. Rutgers scored in the last minute of the game, resulting in a final score of 13–10 Princeton.

“It really came down to us coming back and playing Tiger lacrosse,” head coach Jenn Cook said after the victory. Cook attributes the team’s success to her players’ dedication. “They’re incredibly motivated, they’re hungry, and they want to make a statement every single time they go out and play.” 

Princeton will play their first Ivy League game this Saturday against Yale at 12 p.m. 

“We are excited for this matchup [against Yale],” Dora noted. “Last year’s game did not end with the result we wanted so we are going into this game ready to compete.” 

The game will be played at home on Sherrerd Field and will be streamed on ESPN+.

Lily Pampolina is a Sports contributor for the ‘Prince.’

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