Defense tightens for PU in win

Reimers aids Tiger women’s lacrosse

By: Bob Nuse
   When the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team found itself tied with Loyola, 8-8, at halftime on Sunday, the Tigers knew some changes needed to be made on the defensive end of the field.
   "I think we started to make some big adjustments in terms of the timing of our slides," said sophomore Caitlin Reimers, part of a defensive unit that held Loyola scoreless for 18 minutes in the second half as Princeton turned a 9-8 deficit into a 14-9 lead on the way to a 15-11 win. "They have some really strong one-on-one attackers, and I think that we made some great adjustments as a team in terms of sliding faster. We were able to prevent that underneath roll that they did so effectively in the first half."
   Princeton has always been known as a team that emphasizes defense. So when Loyola scored four goals in the first five minutes and turned the first half into a track meet, adjustments needed to be made.
   "We really talked at halftime about trying to read what they were doing," said Princeton coach Chris Sailer, whose team improved to 2-0 on the season. "Sliding earlier and not getting caught in isolations, which happened a lot in the first half. We were just seeing things better and communicating much better.
   "We’ve got an inexperienced unit. We have a lot of inexperienced people in there and I think they’ll get better as the year goes on. Today was a much better second-half effort."
   And once the defense settled in, the offense took care of the rest. Lindsey Biles finished the game with a career-high six goals and Ingrid Goldberg added three more for the Tigers. In fact, once the offense got going, the defense had a much easier time.
   "A huge difference was that our attack did an unbelievable job of really slowing the ball down in the midfield," said Reimers, who started all 20 games for the Tigers as a freshman last year. "They got some huge checks in there that turned the ball over to our advantage. It gave us time to adjust, turn in and play some really good defense.
   "When our team scores, that is just so motivating. And when they can make big turnovers in the midfield, it just gets us so excited. Defense is such a focus on our team."
   And because defense is such a focus, it made the eight goals surrendered in the first half Sunday all the more unusual. Last year, Princeton allowed more than eight goals in a game just three times all season.
   "Chris has always put a huge emphasis on defense," Reimers said. "It’s one of Princeton’s highest marks. So she always works hard on all of our attackers being good on defense. They play defense in the midfield and the low end.
   "We have some new personnel on defense and they are doing an unbelievable job. We’re still working on our teamwork and our timing, but it is coming along tremendously. Alison Murray, Caitlin Abidin, Jennifer Austin, our captain, they have done such a good job coming in and playing well. We have tremendous depth on defense this year and that’s huge."
   It also helps that Reimers is a year older, with a full year of facing the best teams in the nation already under her belt.
   "It’s less nerve-racking because I have a sense of what is going on and it’s not so new," Reimers said. "We want to take every game as it comes and win. Our goal is to make it to the tournament, so each game is huge.
   "We’re really fired up for our season. We couldn’t ask for a better start. And more importantly we made some good changes from our first game."
   Having already beaten two teams in the top 11, the Tigers face another big test Wednesday at fourth-ranked Duke. Heading there with a win over Loyola certainly helps.
   "It’s huge for us," Sailer said. "We’re happy for any win, especially against a team that has the tradition and the reputation of Loyola. It was a huge test for us and this was a game that will go a long way for us."
   The Tigers got the win thanks to a defense that came around, and an offense led by Biles, who showed she’s a player who can carry an offense when needed.
   "She’s a special player," Sailer said of Biles, who is eighth on Princeton’s all-time goal scoring list. "She’s aware that this year a lot of the firepower of the last couple years is gone and a lot of the focus is going to be on her. She’s really stepped up well for us in the first two games, which a great attacker is going to do. We need her posting those kind of numbers. I hope this won’t be the only time she scores six goals."
   It probably won’t be. Just as it will probably be quite some time before the Tigers give up eight goals in a half again.