Princeton women reach Final Four

Tigers’ lacrosse will face UNC in semifinals Friday

By: Justin Feil
   The Princeton University women’s lacrosse team is already known for its dominating defensive players, so quick and adept at causing turnovers that just getting a good shot is an accomplishment. Add in a goaltender sharp enough to bear a warning label, and the Tigers are difficult to beat.
   Notre Dame found out the hard way as the Tigers advanced to Friday’s NCAA semifinal matchup at Loyola College against third-seed North Carolina with a 11-5 win over the Fighting Irish. The No. 2 seed Princeton didn’t have a great day offensively, but it was more than enough the way that Sarah Kolodner played in her second NCAA tournament game appearance.
   The freshman made 10 saves, five on free positions and three of those in the opening half as the Tigers slowly built a 5-1 halftime lead on their way to a comfortable win.
   "Sarah did a good job," said PU head coach Chris Sailer, whose team has won its last 16 games since opening the season with a loss to No. 1 seed Georgetown. "They had a lot of eight-meter shots on her early. That was big, holding them to a goal in the first half. That helped us gain the lead.
   "At the other end, it wasn’t our best shooting day, so we needed a good game in goal."
   Although a veteran pack of defenders in front of Kolodner helps, the 2001 high school first-team All-America selection has been just that since working her way into the regular starting routine by the third game of the season.
   "I get more confident with every game," the Cold Springs Harbor, N.Y. resident said. "There are different players, different shots (to face)."
   And while NCAA quarterfinal first-timer Notre Dame showed some early nerves in turning the ball over early in the teams’ first-ever meeting, there was no indication of the nerves in Kolodner that she said had her revved up for the game.
   With just under 19 minutes to play, her save of a free position allowed Princeton to maintain its 2-0 lead. That lead built to 3-0, and Notre Dame never got closer, and they had plenty of trouble figuring out the Tiger defense and Kolodner.
   "They weren’t taking the best shots," she said. "They made my job easy. We practiced a lot of (free positions) this past week so I felt confident."
   Princeton, despite an off shooting day, found more than enough offense from three players — Charlotte Kenworthy, Whitney Miller and Lauren Simone — each who had three goals and two assists.
   Kolodner, who is 16-0 as a starter, will almost certainly face a tougher challenge from North Carolina, an overtime winner against Virginia on Sunday.
   There was only a few minutes of anxiety at Class of 1952 Stadium when Notre Dame sliced the Princeton lead to 6-3 with back-to-back goals after Simone scored the first goal of the second half. But Miller answered with her third goal of the game to open back up the Tigers’ lead with 16:31 left in regulation.
   "I just decided with Theresa (Sherry) out, I thought it was time for me to start going to the goal a little more," said the junior attack, who is seventh on the team in scoring. "I figured it was time to step up and play like a junior."
   Princeton will need more of the same, from Miller and from Kolodner, as it takes on North Carolina, the third straight team that Princeton has faced in the NCAA tournament that it did not see in the regular season. The Tigers dominated Le Moyne, 25-3, in Thursday’s NCAA tournament opener.
   In Thursday’s win, freshman Lindsey Biles had four goals and 17 different Tigers got in the scoring column against the third-year program that was also making its first NCAA tournament appearance. Sunday’s win over Notre Dame allowed a third straight trip to the NCAA tournament.
   "We’re thrilled to be back to the Final Four," Sailer said. "We’ve worked so hard to get back to that point. We’re excited about what lies ahead."
   With a win against North Carolina, Princeton would play 1 p.m. Sunday for the national title. The Tigers and the remaining three teams know that for the first time in eight seasons, there will be a different national champion. Cornell topped seven-time defending champion Maryland on Sunday.
   "I think it’s wide open," Sailer said. "I think the teams left all think they can win it. They’ve had seasons that they think have prepared them. That’s exciting to know there will be a new national champion. We’ll do our best to make sure it’s Princeton."