Women’s lacrosse head coach Laura Field has big shoes to fill this year after being chosen to replace Amanda O’Leary, who led Yale to a winning record in every one of her 14 seasons in New Haven. But if there’s anyone who knows what it takes to keep the women’s lacrosse program at its elite level, it’s the former assistant coach.

The Mystic, Conn. native has experienced nothing but success while on Ivy League lacrosse teams, both as an assistant coach and a star goalkeeper. A 2000 graduate of Princeton University, Field was an indispensable member of the school’s perennially strong lacrosse team, leading the Tigers to three NCAA Elite Eight runs, including an appearance in the 2000 national championship game. In Field’s four years in black and orange, she was named to the All-Ivy team three times, and Princeton compiled an impressive 46-21 (.687) record. Her name can be found all over the Tiger record books, with top-10 appearances in statistics ranging from career saves to saves in a single season.

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That on-field success has carried over to the sidelines. As an assistant coach for the Bulldogs over the past seven seasons, Field has helped the Elis to a 79-36 overall record and two NCAA tournament appearances. But even though she has experience on the Yale sidelines, the title of head coach is a whole new challenge.

“I was excited and thrilled at the opportunity to take the reigns of the program,” Field said in an e-mail. “To be able to combine the job I love with students that I know are putting everything they have into the program is something that I am very excited to be a part of in every capacity. I enjoy the fact that now I’m putting my name and reputation behind the philosophies and brand of lacrosse that we preach.”

As a major contributor to the team’s recruiting, Field has brought in, developed and built close relationships with many of the players who have gone through the program, including her experienced group of players for this upcoming season.

“Laura knows each of us almost as well as, if not better than, we know ourselves,” defenseman Jess Champion ’08 said in an e-mail. “She knows what motivates us and how to get the most out of us, as well as the team as a whole.”

The crop of players Field has to work with this year is a talented, determined group. Champion, Lauren Taylor ’08 and Ellen Cameron ’08 all garnered All-America recognition last season from at least one publication. With this type of talent and experience at various positions, Field will be able to spend more practice time going over game plans and analyzing specific opponents, rather than using the time on the fundamentals of the game.

“Having a veteran squad will allow us to emphasize different aspects of our team versus different opponents,” Field said. “If we need to pressure an opponent and really be on the offensive we can do that, or we can bunker down and play a very strategic defensive game all with the same lineup.”

Last year’s team was one of the best in Yale’s history. The 2007 Bulldogs finished second in the Ivy League with a 6-1 record and an overall record of 13-4, the second-highest win total in program history. The team was also ranked as high as No. 11 nationally. With much of the team back from last year’s NCAA tournament team, this year’s expectations are lofty.

“After the success that our team had last season we certainly have our sights set on an Ivy League Championship and a bid to the NCAA tournament,” captain Kat Peetz ’08 said in an e-mail.

Although Field is proud of the accomplishments of the 2007 squad, she is looking to improve upon its performance at the NCAA tournament during 2008 campaign.

“We got a taste of the tournament last year,” Field said. “I think that has shown us what we are capable of, but also changes we need to implement to get to the next round and so forth.”

One may wonder how a Princeton grad on Yale’s coaching staff can survive in New Haven, but the bitter rivalry between the two Ivy League institutions has only brought friendly ribbing.

“There’s a friendly rivalry between the schools, but I’ve now been at Yale longer than I was a student at Princeton,” Field said. “Of all the Ivy games we’ve won in my time here, our Princeton victories have been especially sweet because of that rivalry, and we’d like nothing more than to beat them at their place this year.”

With that mentality, it seems like this Tiger will do just fine.