DeGarmo Leads Stronger, More Experienced Princeton Squad

PHOTO BY TD PAULIUS

Senior Ellie Degarmo, the IWLCA’s 2016 Division I C. Markland Kelly Goalkeeper of the Year, currently sits in the top five for the division in save percentage.


Ellie DeGarmo was a little surprised to find out that she was the IWLCA’s 2016 C. Markland Kelly Goalkeeper of the Year for Division I.

It wasn’t that she doubted her abilities.

“I didn’t even know there’s a goalie of the year,” DeGarmo said. “I didn’t know there was anything besides the Tewaaraton. I feel dumb now. It was a huge honor. I was incredibly humbled and honored to receive that.”

But DeGarmo certainly is not dumb. She’s a Princeton University senior in its Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs with a minor in global health and healthy policy. She also is a lot more concerned with how her team is doing than with any individual honors.

“She’s better if she goes about her business,” said Princeton coach Chris Sailer. “She hasn’t seemed outwardly that she’s been really worried about that, following up on last year. She’s just being Ellie.”

That’s good enough for Princeton. DeGarmo, who led the country in save percentage for most of last year, is right back at it. She sits fourth in the nation at 57.6 percent, and Princeton jumped to No. 5 in the latest rankings with its 5-0 record, its best start since it went 10-0 to open 2008.

“We’re bringing back a lot of starters who have played together for a while,” DeGarmo said. “We’ve been working on the foundation that we’ve developed last year and the years before. It’s really coming together.”

Princeton eased away from No. 11 Notre Dame for a 14-8 win Saturday. It was its most complete and most impressive win of the young season.

“I thought it was really decisive,” said DeGarmo, who made nine saves. “It felt like everything really came together. A lot of us came off the field saying, 'That’s what a really good lacrosse game is supposed to feel like,' shutting them down on defense, getting the hustle plays, getting the 50-50 balls, the attack flowing well and looking for each other. And lots of scorers. I think we had eight different scorers and seven different assisters. Across the board, it was such a great performance. I think we felt really good after that game.”

The offense was led by Olivia Hompe, who scored her 200th career point, as part of a four-goal, one-assist performance. Tess D’Orsi, whom Princeton moved out of the midfield this year, had two goals and two assists. Six different players recorded turnovers.

“We are good all over the field,” Sailer said. “That’s one of the strengths of the team. We’re incredibly well balanced. We have seniors leading the way in every position on the field, from goalie, defense, midfield and attack. With that kind of leadership and experience, it bodes well for the team.”

Hompe is a standout on offense. The midfield got a huge boost with the return of Anna Doherty. She headlines a midfield that is the biggest change for Princeton this year.

“That’s a much stronger, more experienced group,” Sailer said. “Anna Doherty is back leading that group. Anna was out with an ACL. She missed last year. Camille Sullivan, she was the one who had a year of experience. She was a sophomore. Ellie McNulty was a sophomore, but had an injury and missed all of her freshman year. Then we had two freshmen, Kathryn Hallet and Elizabeth George. To that group, you add Anna Doherty back in and a freshman Annie Cory.”

While last year Princeton played a 5-2-5 and subbed out its extra attacker or defender, depending on which end it was on, the Tigers have used their newfound depth in the midfield to be more dynamic. Their scoring has improved dramatically, up more than 50 spots in the nation rankings from 62nd last year to 10th now.

“We’re much more threatening off the fast break. Our ride is much better,” Sailer said. “It’s been an area of strength for us and something we’ve been able to use effectively this year. I think we have a group that they like to run and they like to play fast. It’s different than in the past. Sometimes they’re playing as if we have a 20-second clock. We’re getting a ton more shots this year than in recent years. It’s definitely more of an up-tempo game that we’ve been playing. Our settled offense is getting better and better. We’ve been making a lot of strides. We want to be equally strong in both of those areas. We’re learning how to take care of the ball better. That’s an area we can still improve on, decreasing our unforced errors. If we do that we’ll be an even more threatening unit.”

PHOTO BY TD PAULIUS

Olivia Hompe tallied a team-high five points on four goals and one assist in Princeton's 14-8 win over Notre Dame on Saturday.

With the offense and midfield clicking at a higher rate, and an assortment of players learning to handle their biggest question mark on the draw control, that leaves the defense. Princeton has a lot of confidence in the back. Alex Argo, Madeline Rodriguez, Amanda Leavell and Nonie Andersen have looked sharp on defense in front of DeGarmo, allowing only 8.4 goals per game, 11th best in the country.

“They’re so solid,” DeGarmo said. “We lost two line D last year, but most of them return. We’re returning a lot of experience. We have a very experienced D and they’re all extremely solid. I feel very safe with them.”

Having DeGarmo adds confidence. She is in her third year starting. She didn’t see the field as a freshman, but she was able to unseat Annie Woehling in the first game of her sophomore year. The season before, Woehling had seven saves to hold Maryland to its fewest goals in more than a calendar year.

“I went into it really just wanting to be able to play and show myself,” DeGarmo said. “It ended up being that first game. I went in against Loyola, I had four shots and made three saves. I kept playing.

“Annie handled it with such incredible grace. It would have been easy for her to get really frustrated or down on herself. She turned it right around and was my biggest cheerleader and biggest support system. I’ll always remember that was an amazing thing to do because it would have been so much easier to just do the opposite. I look up to her for that.”

DeGarmo made a big jump last year in her second season starting. Her 53.6 save percentage ended up second and her 10.06 saves per game was fifth.

“My coaches were saying, 'You’re so much more consistent than the year before,'” DeGarmo said. “I honestly don’t know what I would attribute that to, maybe having the experience and a year under my belt, and just being more confident. I really don’t know what I would point to. Just staying as calm and composed as I possibly can. I try to do that as best as I can.”

Despite DeGarmo’s success in college, she hasn’t tried to play for a national team. The U.S. under-19 women's national team wasn’t on her radar when she was at the Bryn Mawr School in Maryland, and last year she didn’t try out for the World Cup team.

“I’m kind of kicking myself about that now,” DeGarmo said. “I was in San Francisco the weekend tryouts were held. Now, I wish I had made the effort to go back. It wasn’t an easy endeavor for me at that time. I wish I had. I just signed up for the semi-pro draft for this summer.”

DeGarmo has the respect of others. A rival coach in a preseason preview called her the best ball stopper in the NCAA. She has come through with some incredible saves in her first two years starting for Princeton.

“It’s very much reflexes more than anything,” said DeGarmo, who hones her hand-eye coordination with frequent juggling at practice. “A lot of the time, I don’t even know how I got here. It’s just weird. It’s quicker than my mind goes. Another thing that makes me successful, the less I think about the shot or even the individual players, the better I am. I don’t try to think [that] 'No. 5 always shoots high.' I don’t listen to that at all. If I start anticipating, I’m a lot less successful.”

Sailer believes that her poise makes her one of the top goalies to have suited up for Princeton. Earlier this year, Loyola stormed back and a DeGarmo turnover aided them. But DeGarmo stopped their free position shot with one second left in the 15-14 win.

“Lesser goalies would have crumbled in that situation,” Sailer said. “She ended up making a huge save to win the game for us. When have someone back there with the experience she has and sees the ball so well and stays unflappable, it’s so awesome. It gives your defense confidence, they can take some chances. Whenever the opponent shoots, we feel we have the chance to get the ball back.”

DeGarmo’s play last year helped propel Princeton to its third Ivy League title in three years. But the Tigers lost in the semifinals of the Ivy League tournament and then were upset by UMass in the first sudden-victory overtime game in NCAA tournament history, 13-12.

“That was a tough ending,” DeGarmo said.

It adds some motivation as DeGarmo tries to raise the Tigers higher this year, who host No. 8 Penn State next Tuesday. Princeton is eyeing another Ivy title and a much deeper run in the NCAA tournament.

“We have this extra drive,” DeGarmo said. “I especially feel it as a senior. I don’t know if it translates with the whole team. It seems like there’s this incredible energy and this sense that we could do something great if we put in the work.”







LOUISVILLE MATURES

Kellie Young knew her No. 20 Louisville team might have some growing pains this year.

“We graduated some pretty powerful personalities last year in Kaylin Morissette and Cortnee Daley, who was a great finisher for us and then Kelli Gerding and Courtney Boyd,” said the Cardinals head coach. “We knew it was going to be young. We’ve been pretty proud about how our kids have responded.”

The Cardinals lost in triple overtime early to Denver and on the road at Notre Dame, but leapt into the Top 20 on the strength of their first-ever win over Duke, 11-8, on Saturday. They are 5-0 at home, but go back on the road for two this week – at Coastal Carolina today and at Boston College on Saturday.

“It really comes down to us putting two halves together and both ends of the field stepping up on game day,” Young said. “If the attack is having a bit of a rough moment, the defense needs to step up. That’s what we did against Duke. In the moment our defense gets rattled or a couple go in that are silly, that’s time for our attack to step up. We’re more about putting complete games together than home and away.”

The Cardinals are discovering ways they can be successful. They know they can count on goalie Brittany Read, who is eighth in save percentage and 10th in saves per game nationally.

“The most important thing she brings is a lot of leadership for our defense,” Young said. “She sees the game very differently than some of our other players do. I’m a coach that recruits athletes. We do a lot of coaching to teach our structure. Brittany has one of the best lax IQs on this team. Her eyes and her vision and now that the defense is responding to her has been crucial.”

PHOTO BY RICH BARNES

Senior attacker Hannah Koloski leads Louisville with a team-best 33 goals.

Meghan Siverson has helped answer one of their biggest question marks, how to replace Morissette, who finished second in draw controls last year. Siverson, a sophomore, ranks 10th this year even after a tough outing against Duke.

“She’s a young kid,” Young said. “She has quick hands. She has quick feet. We just have to beat them to the whistle.”

Siverson and Hannah Koloski each had four goals apiece against Duke. The Cardinals attack is shaping up.

“I was excited in that game to have some of our goals assisted,” Young said. “I think we have Madison Hoover behind, McKayla Conti coming in as a reserve, Ashley Lynch is starting for us as a first-year and they’re starting to find their eye and trust who they can connect with and who they know is going to be able to catch the ball. It’s fun to watch. Hannah was faceguarded throughout Duke, so to have her get four goals off of that, they trusted the plays are coaching staff put in for them and she executed really well and Meg is having a great presence in her one-on-one as well.”

A tight one-goal win over Vanderbilt and the win over Duke have provided Louisville confidence that they want to keep building.

"They haven’t let their confidence be rattled by the losses, by their mistakes, and they keep responding,” said Young,

PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER

No. 1 Maryland leads the clear top three teams in Division I women's lacrosse as one of three remaining unbeatens.

FINAL FOUR BOUND?

Five weeks into the season, a clear top three teams have emerged. But who could join them in the final four is still playing out.

No. 1 Maryland has been dominant. They have replaced their graduation losses seamlessly and are one of only three unbeatens. No. 2 North Carolina’s only loss came against Maryland. They just manhandled No. 14 Elon, 15-5, Tuesday. Florida staked an even stronger claim to its No. 3 spot with back-to-back pastings of No. 7 Stony Brook, 22-14, Saturday and No. 4 Syracuse, 19-12, Tuesday.

Who else could wind up in the final four? Syracuse and Stony Brook remain contenders despite their lopsided losses. The Seawolves remain hungry. They had plenty of offense against Florida, but need its normally stiff defense to slow down high-octane attacks. The Orange are still developing and finding its way, but they tend to improve plenty by the stretch run when Gary Gait tightens his rotation.

No. 9 USC is 4-1 with its only loss coming at the hands of Florida. Turnovers doomed them against the Gators, and if they fix that issue, their defense should again make them contenders after their breakout season of a year ago. USC gave Florida a tougher game than either Syracuse or Stony Brook.

No. 6 Colorado continues its own breakout season, and continues to climb. The Buffaloes took a big step toward solidifying their contender consideration by knocking off a semifinalist from a year ago, No. 8 Penn State on the road, 16-11. The Nittany Lions led 7-3 before Colorado scored 13 of the next 16 goals. Games at Stony Brook and USC will tell even more.

Penn State certainly got a wake-up call from Colorado, but there’s no counting out a team that has so many players back from last year’s final four squad and knows how to get there again.

The Ivy League has a pair of dark horses. No. 5 Princeton has its toughest tests ahead of it still, though the Tigers looked good against No. 11 Notre Dame. Cornell’s only loss came at the hands of Penn State, but the Big Red’s tough defense can keep them in any game and could fuel a final four run.

DENVER DEBUTS IN BIG EAST

Denver took on a pair of Big East opponents last year. They fell to Vanderbilt before knocking off Marquette. This year, those games are part of their conference schedule after they join the Denver men in playing Big East lacrosse. The Denver women had previously played in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF), finishing their tenure in that conference with a loss in the MPSF tournament semifinals last year.

The Pioneers spent the first half of the season catching up with its former conference mates. They went 4-1 against MPSF teams before concluding their non-conference schedule with a win over Vermont of the America East. Denver was a part of the MPSF for 13 years, won the regular season title six times, and captured the MPSF tournament title once in 2014.

Denver will make its Big East debut when it hosts 7-1 Temple on Sunday. Temple has a strong record, but No. 5 Princeton won 19-3 in their toughest matchup of the season. The tests get stiffer shortly after they host Temple when they fly back to the East to play at No. 3 Florida on March 25.

Denver has a 7-6 all-time record against current Big East teams. Denver approved the move out of the MPSF near the end of last spring and chose to begin Big East play immediately this season.

PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER

No. 2 North Carolina had its fair share of one-goal games last year, but look to remain strong against Northwestern this weekend.

GAMES TO WATCH

Here are some key games to keep an eye on this weekend (all times Eastern):

No. 11 Notre Dame at Virginia, Saturday, 12 p.m.

Notre Dame heads into the teeth of its toughest stretch. The Irish follow a loss at Princeton with a road game at Towson on Wednesday. They can’t overlook a down Virginia team even with games at Syracuse and North Carolina looming next.

Duke at No. 12 Penn, Saturday, 1 p.m.

Duke makes a swing through Philadelphia to get back on track after three straight ACC losses dropped them from the Top 20. They face St. Joseph’s on Thursday and then take on a Penn team that has 31 goals in its last two games.

No. 9 USC at No. 10 Cornell (in Boston), Sunday, 12 p.m.

USC finishes its East Coast swing with a tough matchup against an oft-times overlooked Cornell team. USC has the top scoring defense in the country; Cornell is No. 5. Whoever can solve the other’s defense wins this first-ever meeting between these two.

No. 17 Johns Hopkins at No. 1 Maryland, Sunday, 12 p.m.

Johns Hopkins hasn’t faced anyone nearly this good yet, but only two opponents have scored in double figures against them. They’ll get a test from Maryland, which leads the nation in scoring.

No. 13 Northwestern at No. 2 North Carolina, Sunday, 12 p.m.

These two went to overtime last year before North Carolina pulled it out, 9-8, and it was a one-goal game in 2015 as well. Northwestern ended a four-game losing streak with a win over Marquette and looks to kick start a run. UNC has its final non-conference game before finishing out its ACC schedule.

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