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Men’s and women’s lacrosse seasons come to an end after NCAA losses

A group of women’s lacrosse players in black jerseys huddle around one another.
The opening-round win against Drexel was the first NCAA win of Jenn Cook’s career.
Photo courtesy of @princetonwlax / X.

This past weekend, both the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams ended their seasons in the NCAA tournament. The men’s team (11–5 overall, 4–2 Ivy League) lost their opener to the No.7-seeded Maryland Terrapins (9–5, 3–2 Big Ten). 

Meanwhile, the women’s team (11–7, 6–1 Ivy League) won an opening-round game against the Drexel Dragons (13–6, 7–1 Coastal Athletic Association) before bowing out of the tournament against No.2-seeded Boston College (18–3, 7–2 Atlantic Coast Conference).

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Head Coach Jenn Cook earns first NCAA Tournament win 

In their opening round game on Friday afternoon, women’s lacrosse came away with a big 14–9 victory over the Drexel Dragons. Facing an early deficit and a tie game at the half, the Tiger defense dominated the third quarter en route to a comfortable win in the final period. 

Junior attacker McKenzie Blake led the Tigers with five goals while sophomore attacker Haven Dora had a staggering five assists to go alongside two goals. On the other end of the field, sophomore midfielder Abigail Roberts had a career day, causing six turnovers and winning five draw controls. 

In the first quarter, the Tigers trailed 4–0 with work to do. The Dragons refused to miss, converting on their first four shots of the night. However, three quick goals in the final 3:37 of the opening period cut the deficit to just one heading into the second quarter.

After the Tigers tied the game courtesy of senior midfielder Kari Buonanno, the Dragons finally scored with six minutes left in the first half. That ended a 17-minute goal drought from Drexel, who was feeling overwhelmed by the defense from Head Coach Jenn Cook’s squad. The first half ended with both sides tied at six.

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Dora and Blake dominated the third quarter. Blake scored a hat trick in the period while Dora had a goal and two assists to give the Tigers a strong 12–6 lead.

From here on out, the Tigers never looked back, holding on for a 14–9 win. The win marked the first NCAA Tournament win of Cook’s young career. Cook took over as head coach of the program in 2023 after being on former Head Coach Chris Sailer’s staff since 2013.

Tigers fall short against No.2-seeded Eagles 

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Despite going punch for punch with one of the best teams in the nation in their second round game against No.2 seed Boston College, the Tigers could not hold on. Senior captain and attacker Grace Tauckus had a career night with six of the 16 Tiger goals. Blake had four, while Dora added another two. 

The 16 goals conceded by the Eagles were the most goals they had conceded all year. The Eagles are a lacrosse powerhouse, having won the 2021 national championship and making the Final Four every year since 2017. 

In the first period, Boston College got off to a strong 6–3 start. However, the Tigers quickly responded, scoring three goals in 72 seconds in what proved to be a thrilling first quarter. 

Timing was key for the Eagles, who always managed to score and halt any Tiger momentum. With 17 seconds left in the first quarter, they scored to take a 7–6 lead into the second quarter. Despite being tied 9–9 early in the second quarter, the Eagles closed the half on a 4–0 run to take a 13–9 lead in the locker room. The one-goal deficit from the first quarter quickly turned into four in the final minute of the second quarter, killing any Tiger momentum in the first half.

Similarly, the Eagles started the second half on a tear, scoring three straight in the opening minutes of the half to take a commanding 16–9 lead. At this point, the game was all but over, but Cook’s squad continued to rally. Scoring four in a row, the Tigers snatched the opportunity to cut the deficit to three goals heading into the final period. Tauckus was the catalyst during the run, scoring three straight goals. 

Despite this, the experience and home crowd propelled the Eagles to close out the win. A strong fourth-quarter start highlighted by four straight goals allowed the Eagles to pull away for a 21–16 victory.

Boston College advanced to the quarter-finals where they beat the University of Michigan earlier today 14–9 to advance to a seventh consecutive Final Four appearance. 

For Princeton, a successful season comes to an end. They will have one more year with star attacker McKenzie Blake. With other key contributors returning, the future seems to be bright for at least another year in Old Nassau.

The Terps make it eight in a row

Historically, the Tigers have struggled against the Terrapins. The last win for men’s lacrosse against Maryland came nearly 20 years ago on May 22, 2004. Head Coach Matt Madalon has been with the program since 2013 — spending four years as an offensive coordinator before being named the head coach in 2017 — and has lost to Maryland seven times since 2015. Most notably, the historic 2022 Tigers squad lost to Maryland in the Final Four.

Before this matchup, the two sides had played four times in the last three seasons, including a matchup earlier this season. All four times, the script has been nearly identical. The Terrapins have gotten off to a strong lead and cruised the rest of the way.

Still hoping to avenge the 2022 Final Four loss, many fans thought the Tigers could do just that. A pregame fan poll by InsideLacrosse had an overwhelming majority of the participants picking Princeton to advance. 

However, the Terrapins had other plans on a rainy Saturday night in College Park. It took only nine seconds for Maryland to get in the offensive end and beat senior goalie Michael Gianforcaro. They held that lead for the rest of the game and never looked back.

At the end of the first quarter, the Tigers trailed 4–1 with the lone goal coming courtesy of first-year attacker Nate Kabiri. The only notable highlight of the first quarter was sophomore face-off Andrew McMeekin breaking the program record for ground balls in a season (132). 

Kabiri would go on to score two more goals, finishing his rookie season with 32 goals and 25 assists. His 25 assists were second in the country amongst first-year players. 

At half, the Tigers trailed 11–3. Walking to the locker room, the atmosphere was loud at College Park with many Tigers stunned at the score. Coming into the game, the Tigers were hot and coming off an Ivy League championship. Meanwhile, Maryland’s last win was on April 13, and the team suffered a disastrous loss in the Big Ten semifinals against Penn State, the same game where leading goal-scorer Braden Erksa was stretchered off the field. 

While the Tigers outscored the Terrapins 3–1 in the third quarter, highlighted by a goal and an assist from junior star attacker Coulter Mackey, it was too little and too late. With one season left for the Tigers, Mackesy is 40 goals away from tying the program record of goals in a career (163).

The fourth quarter was quite uneventful, with the game ending 16–8. The Tigers’ season ended in the first round of the tournament for the second year in a row, while Maryland advanced to the second round where they will meet No.2-seeded Duke (13–5, 1–3 Atlantic Coast Conference) on Saturday. 

The Maryland defense, led by defenseman Ajax Zappitello, caused nine turnovers and allowed just 31 shots from a Princeton team that came into the match averaging over 46 per game. Zappitello was recently picked third in the Premier Lacrosse League draft.

Maryland graduate student face-off specialist Luke Wierman is one of the best in the country. Also picked in the draft (25th pick), Wierman has the most faceoffs in Terrapins history with over 800 to his name. On Saturday, he won 20 out of 26 face-offs, giving his side multiple opportunities to capitalize and score. 

Similar to the women’s program, Princeton will return key players: Mackesy, McMeekin, Kabiri, and first-year attacker Colin Burns, among other contributors. Madalon and his staff will now look to capitalize on Mackesy’s final year for the program. Though the curtain has closed on this year’s version of Princeton lacrosse, the future remains bright as the returning stars look to extend deeper tournament runs next spring.

Hayk Yengibaryan is an associate Sports editor for the ‘Prince.’

Please send any corrections to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.

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