Virginia 10, Princeton 4
Sparked by a stunning first-half scoring burst and a dominating performance by its goalkeeper, the Virginia women's lacrosse team exorcised an agonizing past of championship-game failure and cruised to its first national championship in 11 years.
The Cavaliers scored five consecutive goals on five shots in the first half to take a big halftime lead, and senior goalkeeper Andrea Pfeiffer had a career-best 19 saves as Virginia cruised to a 10-4 victory over Princeton in front of 4,922 on Sunday at Princeton Stadium.
Virginia (19-3) won its third national championship, including crowns in 1991 and 1993. The Cavaliers had lost four consecutive national championship games since winning their last title, including an 8-7 overtime heartbreaker against Princeton in 2003.
"To finally get one after nine years of trying is awesome," ninth-year Virginia coach Julie Myers said. "We've been trying -- really hard -- and it's hard to win. . . . People can't say anything anymore."
After a slow start, Virginia's domination was complete, from a patient, efficient offense that scored goals on 10 of its last 14 shots, to a suffocating performance by its interior defense and Pfeiffer.
Junior Amy Appelt had four goals, including her 200th career goal, and senior Caitlin Banks added three. Tyler Leachman (Holton-Arms) scored twice, both during the game-breaking stretch of the middle of the first half in which the Cavaliers scored three goals in 86 seconds and five over the final 11 minutes 10 seconds of the half to turn a 1-0 deficit into a lead they would never relinquish.
Princeton (19-1), which had won 28 consecutive games dating from April 2003, including wins over Virginia in last year's title game and on March 14, yielded more than three consecutive goals for the first time all season.
"I think all together our attack today, we were on, we were connected," Appelt said. "We just played as a team, and we came out with it."
"They executed the game plan perfectly, then added a little of their own flavor to it at moments," Myers said. "We did a great job of creating great opportunities. . . . I think everything just fell into our laps, because we worked very hard to create those opportunities."
Defensively, Pfeiffer was splendid. Princeton, which had averaged 13 goals a game during its winning streak, scored the fewest goals in a championship game since Maryland lost to Temple, 6-4, in 1984.
Pfeiffer, who was named the tournament's most valuable player, was key in helping the Cavaliers pull away. While the defense closed the Tigers' lanes to the goal and limited Princeton's good shots, Pfeiffer made six saves and yielded only one goal during the first 19 minutes of the game, when Princeton was almost exclusively on offense.
"I think moments like that, people can't really describe," Pfeiffer said. "I just didn't really think about anything. One save after another, you get more and more confident. You don't really think about where they're going to shoot, you just react."
After that stretch early in the game, during which Virginia went more than nine minutes without attempting a shot, the Cavaliers took control once they regained possession on offense.
The Cavaliers scored their first goal on a free-position shot by Leachman with 11:10 left in the first half, and Appelt added another goal 40 seconds later on a nice spin move and shot into the upper right corner. Leachman scored after cutting through the middle and taking a perfect pass from Banks with 9:44 left to give the Cavaliers a 3-1 lead and all of the momentum.
Banks added her first goal with under five minutes left. Appelt scored three minutes later to give the Cavaliers a 5-1 halftime lead.
"Virginia is obviously very tough and very talented," Princeton Coach Chris Sailer said. "When they get the upper hand, they're tough to beat."
Princeton got as close as 6-3 in the second half after a goal by junior Lindsey Biles (Severn) with 15:58 left in the game, but Virginia pulled away after that. Pfeiffer made 11 saves on 18 shots in the half, while the Cavaliers' offense produced two more goals apiece from Appelt and Banks and one from sophomore midfielder Nikki Leib.
"We were setting each other up for success," Banks said. "We all know each other's tendencies. We worked hard together to get it done, so it worked great."