March 31, 2012

Cornell Knocks Off Princeton in OT

from press release

PRINCETON, N.J. – With history against them and a pro-Tigers crowd in the stands, the No. 18 Cornell women's lacrosse team bucked the trend by defeating No. 16 Princeton by a 13-12 margin in overtime at Class of 1952 Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

The Big Red scored two goals in overtime to the Tigers' one, and Jessi Steinberg's fourth goal of the afternoon gave Cornell just its fourth win all-time against Princeton in 34 meetings. Cornell won for the second consecutive time on Princeton's campus as it beat the Tigers 11-8 two years ago.

The victory looked like it was going to come in regulation, as Cornell held an 11-9 advantage with 6:23 to go. But the lead evaporated as the Tigers scored twice to force overtime.

"We were disappointed that we gave up those two to let them tie it in regulation, but it was important we didn't dwell on that," coach Jenny Graap said. "It was really important that we got our confidence back and our focus back. ... We tried to keep the tone one of support because at that point it's a whole new game."

Just 48 seconds into overtime, Salisbury completed her hat trick, speeding into the eight-meter fan and going short side to beat Princeton goalie Annie Woehling.

"It gave us a lot of momentum," Salisbury said. "And then Jessi had a nice goal, too, and that gave us a lead that they couldn't [overcome]."

Princeton won the next draw control but turned the ball over, and Steinberg capitalized on the turnover when she faked high and shot low. Cornell's 13-11 was a short-lived one, though, as Princeton scored with 0.3 seconds left until the teams switched sides.

In the second half of overtime, Cornell held strong on defense when freshman Claire MacManus forced a turnover after Princeton won the draw. Once the team had possession, the Big Red drained the clock, playing keepaway with the ball in the final minute as the buzzer sounded and the celebration began.

"Claire MacManus stepped up and made that great play at the end there, getting the ball back and bringing it down the field," Graap said. "The whole game was a pretty darn good defensive effort."

Salisbury, Katie Kirk and McHugh each scored three goals in the contest, and Steinberg's four goals completed the Big Red offense. The overtime win was Cornell's first since March 20 of last season when it beat Notre Dame 6-5. Steinberg also scored the game-winner in that contest.

Cornell (7-2, 3-1 Ivy League) has now won more games this season than it had all of last year and has scored more goals in 2012 (133) than it did in all of 2011 (131). The Big Red improved to 2-0 after a loss this year, is 3-1 in Ivy League play for the first time since 2006 and beat its first ranked opponent since knocking off Florida in 2011's season finale.

Saturday's victory was important in the Ivy League standings, as Princeton (4-4, 2-1) dropped its first Ancient Eight contest. The Big Red, meanwhile, moved up to third place in a conference where the top four teams advance to the league tournament. It also was key to get a victory in its second game of a brutal five-game stretch against ranked opponents. Dartmouth, Loyola and Syracuse still await before the team's most difficult portion of the schedule is complete.

"I'm certainly pleased with where we are," Graap said. "We don't want to peak until tournament time. As long as we stay committed to the work ethic, I feel good."

The entire contest was a back-and-forth affair with neither side holding a lead larger than two goals at any time. Cornell held the early advantage in the draw control category and finished the game with a 15-13 advantage on the draw, but the tilt seemed like it was destined for overtime from the early going.

The game began well for the Big Red as Steinberg won the opening draw control and scored a goal two minutes in. Coming from behind the net, Steinberg fired low and across the goalie to give the visiting Big Red a 1-0 advantage.

It took Princeton just 29 seconds to tie the game up.

Kirk gave the Big Red its first man-down goal of the year after Salisbury took a yellow card. Princeton tried to bring the ball up the field but turned it over as Kelly Lang picked up the ground ball, and Steinberg streaked down the field with the ball. Eventually the ball worked its way to Kirk, who drew a free position attempt and converted. As the man-up chance for the Tigers expired, Cassie Pyle earned a free-position shot and re-tied the game.

Princeton took its first lead of the game minutes later, but Steinberg earned her second goal of the game at the 17:01 mark of the first half to tie the game once again.

Two goals in 14 seconds, though, gave the Tigers a 5-3 advantage with under 13 minutes left in the half, but Salisbury scored her first goal of the afternoon on a low, bouncing shot on a breakaway that came when Princeton turned the ball over. Salisbury struck again less than 30 seconds later on a pass from Lauren Halpern, and the game was tied again at 5-5 with 10:24 remaining in the half.

Cornell earned its first lead thanks to McHugh, who scored her 60th career goal on a tremendous individual effort. She split two defenders and ran in on goal, firing high to beat Annie Woehling and make it a 6-5 Big Red lead.

Princeton scored next to make it 6-6, but Kirk scored her second goal 2:20 before the halftime whistle to make it 7-6. Coming from the left side, Kirk beat her defender one-on-one and slipped the ball high past Woehling. Princeton came right back, though, equalizing with 27.9 ticks left on the first-half clock.

As the second half began, the Tigers won the draw control and scored easily just 35 seconds in to put the Big Red behind 8-7. McHugh, though, made a terrific play to tie the game at 8-8 with 23:38 to go. McHugh picked up the ball in the Cornell defensive end and ran it the length of the field down the right side. Cutting in after passing the restraining line, McHugh went straight for the net and beat Woehling to complete her end-to-end effort.

Princeton made it 9-8 just over a minute later, and that began more than eight full minutes without a goal by either team. Finally, after back-and-forth action that saw turnovers from each side and a Steinberg shot off the post, Steinberg got her third goal on a nice pass from Salisbury. Steinberg fired low through the legs of Woehling, and Princeton called a timeout with 14:07 to go and the game knotted at 9-9. The goal also moved the senior captain to fifth all-time in team history for goals.

McHugh was the game's next scorer. After a Steinberg shot was saved, Shannon Tierney won the ground ball and passed it back to McHugh. Standing in the center of the field, McHugh ran straight at the goal and converted on her third goal of the afternoon. With 9:15 left in the game, Cornell got its first lead since 7-6.

The Big Red made it three consecutive goals three minutes later when Steinberg found a streaking Kirk in front of the net. Kirk had her hat trick, and the Big Red forced a Princeton timeout with an 11-9 lead.

The timeout seemed to work for Princeton, as a Tigers goal with 4:54 remaining cut the Cornell lead to just one. Kyla Dambach made a nice save for Cornell two minutes later, but a Big Red turnover gave Princeton the ball right back. This time, they converted, and with 2:08 remaining the game was tied once more.

The Big Red won the ensuing draw control and had possession in the last two minutes, but the team could not get off a clean shot and turned the ball over with under five seconds left to force overtime.

In overtime, though Cornell got its scoring back in gear as Salisbury and Steinberg found twine and the defense held strong.

"I think we're looking good and playing some of our best lacrosse," Salisbury said.

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