Monday, May 15, 2017

The Third Time's The Wildest

Where were you four weeks ago?

It doesn't seem that long ago, right?

Just those four short weeks ago, the Princeton women's team had yet to play Cornell. Now? They've played three times. That's a lot of familiarity in a short time.

Cornell's last six games were against Princeton, Harvard, Harvard, Princeton, Notre Dame and Princeton. On the other hand, Princeton's last five games have been against Cornell, Columbia, Penn, Cornell and Cornell.

The first Princeton-Cornell meeting was all the back on April 22, in the regular-season, when the Tigers needed a win to get a share of the Ivy League championship. Final, Princeton 12, Cornell 11, in two OT.

The second Princeton-Cornell meeting was way, way back on May 7 - eight days ago - in the championship game of the Ivy League tournament, Final, Princeton 12, Cornell 9.

With those two games in the book, Princeton probably thought it was done with the Big Red. Then the NCAA selections came out. Princeton, the fifth seed, would get a first-round bye and then host the winner of Cornell-Notre Dame, which was played Friday night on Sherrerd Field.

All week, any time anyone mentioned the game to TigerBlog, he heard the same thing: It's tough to beat a team three times in a season.

That, of course, assumed Cornell would beat Notre Dame, something that wouldn't be easy. Cornell fell behind 2-0, 4-2 and 5-3 in the first half - and then sprinted past the Irish with a flawless second half, the end result of 12-7 win.

And with that, it would be time for Princeton-Cornell III. This time, the stakes were pretty high - a spot in the NCAA quarterfinals.

It proved to be about as wild a game as Sherrerd Field has ever seen.

The game started at 1 on a nice, sunny Mothers' Day spring afternoon. A huge crowd was on hand, with a huge Princeton student turnout.

Cornell would go up 2-0. Princeton would come back with five straight before a Cornell goal with 5:50 left before intermission made it 5-3 Tigers at the break. Princeton continued to lead throughout the second half, but Cornell never went away.

At some point, TigerBlog looked out the press box window to the left and notice that the sunshine was diminishing. There were dark clouds coming in. Was it even supposed to rain?

In the meantime, Cornell would finally tie the score at 9-9 with 4:27 to play. And then, it started to rain. And rain and rain and rain.

Like, lots and lots of rain. Sideways rain. Heavy rain. Build-an-ark rain. It was unreal.

So what did Princeton do? First, Elizabeth George scored, with 4:04 to play. Then George scored again, with 2:08 to play. Now it was 11-9 Princeton.

How hard was it raining? See for yourself:

Yes, it was insane.

Maybe the best part was the way the Princeton fans - especially the students - only upped their intensity during the deluge.

So what happened next?

Of course, a 30-minute delay for lightning, one second later, after Cornell won the draw on a violation.

The clock on the scoreboard stood frozen at 2:07, with Princeton up 11-9, and Cornell ball. The teams retreated to the locker rooms. The fans gathered under the stands.

And the weather? Well, in about two minutes it went from torrential back to beautiful. Bright sunshine. No rain. Low 60s. It all happened really, really quickly.

Princeton may have lost the momentum it had just before the delay, after the two big goals. What the Tigers did have were their five most important people on this day:

Defenders Nonie Anderson, Madeleine Rodriguez, Alex Argo and Amanda Leavell and goalie Ellie DeGarmo.

Time and again in this game, when Princeton needed a lock-down defensive stand, those five came through. Earlier in the second half, Cornell, down two at the time, had taken the shot clock down to one and then shot, had DeGarmo save it and then got it right back, with 90 seconds to go.

What did Princeton do? Wiped Cornell out for another 90 seconds.

Now, after the delay, it was Cornell ball, with plenty of time to score, get it back and score again to force the tie and overtime.

What did Princeton do? Defended. Really, really well.

The result was three shots in the final 2:07, and three more saves for DeGarmo. She'd finish with 15 for the game and now has 219 for the season, which also happens to be the Princeton record.

Cornell would never get the 10th goal, let alone the 11th. DeGarmo and her defense were the stars for this game.

The Big Red has seen enough of DeGarmo, who also made 15 saves in the Ivy League tournament final and 14 in the regular season game. That's 44 saves, to go with 29 goals-against, or a .603 save percentage against one of the best offenses in Division I.

Princeton is happy to be done with Cornell as well. Next up is a trip this coming Sunday to fourth-seeded Penn State, who defeated Princeton 13-8 during the regular season, for the quarterfinal round. The winner goes to the Final Four in Foxboro, Mass.

Before this year, Princeton had never played a team three times in a season. They were three big games, with a lot on the line each time, and Princeton came up big all three times.

The third time, of course, would be the wettest and wildest.

And the biggest.

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