To Corey Leader and the seniors on the lacrosse team, playing Princeton has always been a personal battle.
Since the Owls senior attacker played her first collegiate game, Leader has wanted to notch a win against the Tigers, if nothing else.
“They always seem to get the best of us,” Leader said. “I can remember walking off the field [as a freshman] and being so angry. I want to beat them so bad.”
The Owls’ game against Princeton today at Geasey Field represents more than just a local rivalry. The Princeton Tigers are a benchmark of elite program status.
They have claimed three Division I Championships, eight Ivy League titles and seven-straight NCAA Tournament appearances.
What Kansas and Duke are to men’s basketball, Princeton is to women’s lacrosse.
And the Tigers have shown that pedigree the last three years against the Owls. In those three games, Princeton has amassed 42 goals against Temple’s 19.
Last year Temple came the closest it has to beating the Tigers, losing 10-8. The Owls never held a lead in any of their last three contests with Princeton.
The veterans on this year’s Temple team felt this might be the year for a reversal of fortune.
“If there was ever a time that we can beat them, it is now,” Leader said.
Senior attacker Patty Glavin said she feels as strongly as Leader does about the Owls’ chances.
“There is no doubt in my mind that we can do this,” she said.
Glavin recalled a meeting coach Jennifer Ulehla held with the team, in which the Owls tried to project what games were must-wins. The team chose games with Penn State and Princeton, if it was to achieve a desirable final record. With a loss to Penn State earlier in the season, there is no room for error the Owls (4-4) in today’s game.
“Realistically, we want to be 14-4 at the end,” Glavin said. “After the slow start at the beginning of the season, we knew that Penn State and Princeton were going to be that much tougher. And with the loss to Penn State, it just shows what we have to do against Princeton.”
If today’s game is a close one, it may benefit the home-field Owls, who have three games decided by one goal this season. The latest came against Rutgers on Saturday. Trailing 9-5 at halftime, the Owls outscored the Scarlet Knights, 6-1, in the second half with outstanding play from Leader, Glavin and Nicole Cataldo.
Leader looked at the Rutgers game as an end-all to the team’s early season struggles.
“The things that were hurting us,” Leader said, “I believe they are fixed. Coach ripped us at halftime and we came out in the second half and really started to click.”
Glavin said it wasn’t easy knocking off a tough Rutgers team.
“They played a great game,” Glavin said. “We didn’t think they were going to play as well as they did. Rutgers is a very good team, you have to give them credit for the way they played.”
Playing Princeton will be no different, Leader said.
“They are remarkably deep,” Leader said. “I’ve played with some of their players on club teams and they have been some of the best players I have played with. They tell me they are on Princeton’s team and they haven’t even seen any playing time yet. It’s remarkable.
“… Our scouting report for this team is twice as long as it usually is,” Leader added. “Our coaches can’t prepare us any more than they already have.”
Greg Otto can be reached at email@example.com.