Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Marge Donovan Says "Nah"

Marge Donovan was just across midfield with fewer than 12 seconds exactly left in the third quarter of Princeton's Ivy League women's lacrosse tournament final against Yale, a game the Tigers would win 19-9.

Exhibit 1:

That's Donovan in the tights with her foot on the shield.

At the time she was about 15 yards behind the ball, which was being advanced quickly toward the Princeton goal.

Exhibit 2:

Fewer than six seconds later, she was standing in front of the Princeton crease with the ball in her stick. Seriously.

Exhibit 3:
To recap, Princeton turned the ball over, starting a fast break the other way. The ball was passed ahead of Donovan, who sprinted (flew?) back on defense. At the last possible moment, she leapt and intercepted the ball, with her stick straight up in the air, with one hand, by the way.

Jeff O'Connor's call on the ESPN+ feed went like this: "Yale with a chance...Marge Donovan says 'nah.'"

It was an extraordinary play by Donovan. Actually, it's one of the best plays that TigerBlog has ever seen in a women's lacrosse game. The only thing it really lacked was impact in a key moment, since the Tigers had a 10-goal lead at the time.

The reason Princeton had a 10-goal lead was also directly related to Donovan. Yale is one of the best teams in the country on the draw, but Donovan also said "nah" there as well.

Princeton and Yale played in the final game of the regular season, a winner-take-all matchup of teams that were 6-0 in the league. Yale won 25 of 34 draws in that game, which became a 17-14 Tiger win.

That game gave Princeton the outright Ivy title and the host role in the league tournament, which would determine the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. It was also about more than that, though. Princeton was already going to be in the NCAA tournament win or lose, but the Tigers looked like a team that wanted to make a statement this weekend. Maybe it was because it's Chris Sailer's last year. Maybe it's because there is a senior class that runs 10 deep.

Whatever the reason, Princeton is clearly peaking at the right time. The draw numbers show that. Yale beat Cornell Friday night in the semifinal and won 16-6, winning 18 of 25 draws along the way. 

So what happened Sunday? Princeton won 21 of 31 draws. It was astonishing to watch the change. It started with Sophie Whiteway on the draw itself, but it was really the Marge Donovan show, as she set a Princeton record with 12 draw controls in one game.
It was a remarkable performance. The result was that Princeton, outshot 40-31 by Yale in the first game, outshot the Bulldogs 37-23. Yale scored first, but it was all Tigers after that. It was 15-3 at halftime.

When it ended, Sailer got the ice water dumped on her after her team finished 9-0 against Ivy opponents. Having perfection in the league in her final season has to mean a lot to her.

Goalie Sam Fish made 19 saves while allowing 15 goals in the two games. Kyla Sears did what she does, which means she crushed the national anthem and then added to her record-setting career with 10 goals and four assists for the weekend (she now holds program records for points, goals and assists despite playing three seasons and five games of another).
The tournament MVP was Donovan, though. The work she did on the draws and the way she and the Tiger D have tightened up made her a deserving choice.
That first game against Yale could have been the last ever on Sherrerd Field for Sailer. So could the one against Harvard Friday night and then the one against Yale Sunday. None of them were.
When the NCAA selections came out Sunday night, they revealed that Princeton would be home again. This time, it'll be the first and second rounds on Sherrerd Field, beginning Friday when Syracuse plays Fairfield at 4 and then Princeton plays UMass at 7. Syracuse, the highest seed at No. 4, could not host because of graduation, so Princeton gets another chance to play on its own field. The winners of Friday's games will play Sunday at noon.
It'll be a big weekend of NCAA lacrosse at Princeton, with the men also home, Saturday at noon against Boston University.

The Princeton women will bring momentum with them into the NCAA tournament. Their last two weekends have seen wildly happy, emotional celebrations by the Tigers. There are enough pictures and videos from those last two weeks to last a lifetime. 
The challenge a week ago was to put the excitement of the first Yale win and the celebrations of the seniors and of Sailer in the past and be ready to play. The Tigers got an A+ for that. 
Now it's back to business again. 

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