Looking at the numbers, No. 3 Princeton should be the clear-cut favorite for Saturday’s women’s lacrosse game. The Tigers have the better record, more impressive statistics, and have lost just one Ivy League game in four years. But Princeton knows better than to take No. 18 Yale for granted — in 2003, an underdog Eli squad handed the Tigers that loss.
The Bulldogs will attempt to chase down another upset as they host the Tigers on Saturday. Both teams will enter the weekend on multiple-game winning streaks — Yale (5-4, 1-2 Ivy) and Princeton (7-2, 2-0) both dropped their respective matches on March 26, but each recovered with three consecutive victories. The Elis are hoping that their recent successes combined with the traditional competitiveness of the Princeton-Yale rivalry will tip the scales in their favor on Saturday.
“We think that this year’s Princeton team is probably the most beatable they’ve been in years,” defender Meredith Mack ’05 said. “Knowing that and knowing that we’ve beaten them before makes us more confident that we can win. We’re just excited to get out there and do it, because we know we can.”
If history is any indication, jumping to an early lead against Princeton may give the Elis the needed advantage to take down the Tigers, who rest atop the Ivy League standings. In their 2003 win, the Bulldogs led the Tigers 5-3 at halftime, and Princeton was unable to take control of the game. But last season, the Tigers led 8-3 at the break, and it was the Bulldogs who were unable to recover from the deficit as Princeton got its revenge with a 13-4 rout.
“Going into any game, it’s our goal to come out strong,” Mack said. “Against Princeton, it’s extremely important not to fall behind, because they’re not the kind of team that will let you come back.”
Getting ahead early in the game has been a key to the Elis’ success this season too. In all five of Yale’s wins, the Bulldogs have had the advantage at the halfway mark. The Elis have yet to win a contest in which they were trailing at the break.
As both Yale and Princeton vie to gain control of the game early, the Bulldogs will have to be wary of Princeton’s attack. The Tigers, who are led by a pair of senior All-Americans in Lindsey Biles and Elizabeth Pillion, have outscored opponents 93-75 so far this season. Biles leads the team with 26 goals and seven assists and Pillion trails just behind her with 19 goals and eight assists.
“We need to focus on shutting down Lindsey Biles and Elizabeth Pillion,” head coach Mandee O’Leary said. “Princeton has exceptional speed, so we also must slow down their fast breaks.”
The Elis have proven themselves to be up to the challenge of keeping strong offensive players in check. Against Boston University, Eli midfielder Lindsay Levin ’07 kept Jenny Hauser, the Terriers’ leading attacker, quiet for the entire 60 minutes. Hauser, who averages close to three points per game, managed only one assist in the 6-4 Bulldog victory.
“[Princeton’s] attack is the strongest aspect of their game,” Mack said. “In other games this season we’ve had Lindsay Levin faceguard the strongest players and I wouldn’t be surprised if we did that again. We need to play good solid team defense, with everyone supporting each other and helping each other out.”
While the Eli defense will be fighting to contain a stellar Tiger attack, the Bulldog attack will face a considerably weaker Princeton defense. The Tigers have just one senior defender, and goalie Sarah Kolodner has exhibited a tendency to break down under pressure.
“Their defense is supposedly the weakest it’s been in quite a few years,” attacker Lauren Taylor ’08 said. “So we’re just going to go at them hard and try to get in a couple goals early on.”
Taylor, who has scored 11 goals in the Bulldogs’ past three games, and midfielder Katie Sargent ’05, who has 17 goals on the season, will look to lead the Bulldogs’ efforts against Kolodner and her defense.
Overall, the Elis enter the weekend ready to carry on their recent success and prove that they can be an obstacle for national powerhouse Princeton.
“The games against Princeton have usually been close,” O’Leary said. “I believe we have a lot of momentum going into the game on Saturday.”