The Virginia field hockey team lost 2-1 to Princeton in the NCAA semifinals Friday afternoon. The matchup featured two equally matched teams that battled until the final seconds of the game. Ultimately, the Cavaliers (18-5, 4-2 ACC) failed to find an equalizer late in the game, and the Tigers (16-4, 7-0 Ivy League) prevailed.
The matchup showcased two different playing styles. The Tigers have a potent attack, and entered the game with 70 goals scored on the season, fourth best in the nation. On the other hand, Virginia has a stingy defense that allowed just 25 goals on the season, tied for eighth in the nation.
However, the game began opposite of what these numbers would suggest. In the first quarter, Virginia’s offense outshined Princeton’s. The Cavaliers had three shots — one of which found the back of the net — and Princeton had zero. Junior midfielder Rachel Robinson’s fifth goal of the season provided a necessary cushion for a Cavalier team that relies heavily on defense.
Princeton did not go away, however, after the Virginia goal. Following Robinson’s goal, Virginia had two more promising opportunities to extend the lead, but Princeton senior goalkeeper Grace Baylis turned both shots away to keep the Tigers in the game going into the second quarter.
At the start of the second quarter, the Cavaliers had another golden opportunity to extend their lead on a corner, but the Tigers blocked three consecutive shots to escape. Princeton’s offense took advantage and eventually found its rhythm, getting on the scoreboard when sophomore striker Ali McCarthy scored a goal off an assist by sophomore midfielder Hannah Davey.
Heading into halftime, Virginia’s offense looked primed to break out for more goals after generating many opportunities in the first half. However, it was Princeton who exploded in the third quarter, as the Tigers registered seven shots and found the eventual winner. Junior midfielder Julianna Tornetta’s third goal of the season put the Tigers ahead 2-1 with just under 20 minutes to play.
Suddenly, a Virginia offense that only scored 47 goals over the course of 23 games was forced to find an equalizer with time slipping away. The Cavaliers ramped up their attack — they had five shots in the fourth quarter — but just one of them was on goal. With just 12 seconds remaining, the Cavaliers had a last chance corner opportunity, but freshman back Cato Geusgens had her shot blocked twice as Princeton escaped with the victory.
Virginia’s season ends with a defeat against Princeton for the third straight year, but the Cavaliers end the season with plenty of reason to be optimistic going forward. Six of the team’s top eight point scorers return next year, as does sophomore goalkeeper Lauren Hausheer, who conceded only 23 goals on the season.