Wednesday, May 22, 2019

A Friday Night At The D'Orsi's

The official NCAA lacrosse Twitter feed has, each week, a picture of the week and top plays of the week.

Teams are able to nominate for both. When it comes to the top picture each week, the NCAA usually gives three or four options on a Monday and then fans are asked to vote. Whichever picture gets the most votes wins.


The top picture contest has continued through the postseason, and the Princeton women have now won twice in the last three weeks. If you go back to the last weekend of the regular season, by the way, the men also won.

Maybe next year TB will keep track to see which school wins the most.

The one to end the regular season was this one:
It's a photo by Patrick Tewey from the men's regular season finale at Cornell.

Then there was Shelley Szwast's picture after the Ivy League tournament, as head coach Chris Sailer had the water bucket poured over her head:
Of course, on that day, it rained so much that Sailer probably didn't notice much.

This past week, here was the winner, again by Patrick Tewey:

The person who probably liked the picture the most could have been strength and conditioning coach Angie Brambley-Moyer, who had to smile at Elizabeth George's arms.

That picture came from the women's lacrosse team's 17-12 defeat to Boston College in the NCAA quarterfinals this past Saturday in Massachusetts. The loss snapped Princeton's 11-game winning streak, which was the longest since the program-record run of 28 straight between 2003 and 2004.

By any accounts, this was an outstanding year for the women's lacrosse team.

The Tigers were 5-3 at one point before that 11-game winning streak, and that run took Princeton to a sixth-straight Ivy League championship and a fifth Ivy League Tournament title in the 10 years of the event. The last two wins in the streak were in the NCAA tournament, over Wagner and Loyola, to set up the meeting with BC.

TigerBlog has had a sense all year that women's lacrosse was heading to a Boston College-Maryland championship game, something that is still quite likely, as BC takes on North Carolina (the only team to beat the Eagles this year) and Maryland takes on Northwestern in the semifinals at Johns Hopkins Friday.

Princeton pushed the Eagles on their home field Sunday, with the a tense and intense first half that ended with BC ahead 7-6 and then a Tess D'Orsi goal to tie it early in the second. From there, Boston College went on a decisive 5-0 run, but Princeton fought hard to the end.

The 2019 women's lacrosse team had itself a very interesting year statistically as well.

Princeton had never had more than one 50-goal scorer in a season prior to this year, and only twice had a player scored at least 60 goals in a season. This year, Princeton had two more 60-plus goal scorers and another with 55 (Tess D'Orsi with 64, Elizabeth George with 62, Kyla Sears with 55).

In fact, the school record of 56 that Crista Samaras set in 1998 had stood for 19 years before it was beaten by Olivia Hompe in 2017; since then, three other players have gotten more than 56 - D'Orsi and George this year and Sears last year with 64.

And while her goals dipped a bit this year, Sears did break the program single-season assist record with 40 of those.

All of this goal scoring should have gotten TigerBlog to thinking at some point about the team record for goals in a season, but he never did. Until yesterday, at least.

Turns out the record for goals in a season by the women's lacrosse team is 291, set in 2002. And how many goals did this year's team score?

How about 290, one off the record.

TigerBlog thought the women's lacrosse team was going to have a big year, and it did. The Tigers came into the season with all sorts of strengths all over the field, and the postseason honors that the team racked up are proof of that, including the five All-Region players who were announced yesterday.

Of the 20 games the team played, TB was at 13 of them, and he watched a few others online. He saw lots of great moments on the field, but what he'll remember most about this team is what he saw last Friday night.

It was the night before the Boston College game, after a rainy afternoon practice that gave way to a beautiful, clear, warm evening. The team went from that practice to the D'Orsi's house in Sudbury, about 45 minutes away.

It was there that the D'Orsis had a feast waiting for the team. After that, it was time to relax, outside, with a few games that turned out to be a little bit more competitive than you might have thought.

From where TigerBlog sat and watched, he saw all the things that have always made this place so special.

It was a championship team, on the verge of a huge game. It was a bunch of 18- to 22-year olds who were thrown together from all over under the banner of "Princeton Women's Lacrosse" when they first stepped onto the Princeton campus, and here they were, a team in every sense of the word.

They had made great, enduring friendships. They had pushed themselves to be the best they could be through practice and, as the picture of George showed, strength training. They worked to bring out the best in each other. They learned lessons of time management and teamwork.

And they had a lot of fun doing it.

In short, they were the embodiment of everything that Princeton Athletics wants to be.

Yes, it would be great to be playing this weekend.

Still, TB has a sense that they'll all remember that Friday night at the D'Orsi's, long after the sting of Saturday's loss has faded away.

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