Amid their graduation celebrations, seniors on the Georgetown women’s lacrosse team find they have something extra to celebrate. Tonight, the top-seeded Hoyas make an appearance in their second consecutive NCAA Division I women’s lacrosse Final Four when they take on fourth-seeded Cornell tonight at 5:30 p.m.

“We’re preparing for a team we’ve never played before, which is a little bit different and a little more challenging for the staff and for the team, but they’re in the same boat,” Head Coach Kim Simons said. “It’s a great challenge and I think we match up well.”

The Hoyas soundly defeated Duke last weekend in the quarterfinals to advance to the semifinals. Cornell overcame seven-time defending national champion Maryland to move on. North Carolina, the only team to beat Georgetown this season, and perennial powerhouse Princeton meet in Friday’s other semifinal.

“They are a pretty feisty team. They play a pretty aggressive defense that we need to make sure we’re able to handle and able to exploit,” Simons said of Cornell. “This means that all of our players have to step up and be ready to do what they did against Duke. We had seven different people score in the first half. That’s the kind of offense we need to have.”

Head Coach Jenny Graap and seven starting seniors lead Cornell, 16-1 after its victories in the first two rounds. Simons said that the experience and leadership that come with having so many seniors is an intangible factor that, in addition to its tenacious defense, will make Cornell even harder to stop.

“Having had seven seniors on the field last year, I know that that gives you a lot of confidence in that they’ve just played together for a while.” Simons said. “I just think that we need to try to put some pressure on them early and go after them from the get-go.”

Another intangible factor will aid Cornell: the fact that they are coming off a big win over the former champion. Earlier this season, however, the Hoyas exacted their revenge on Maryland for last years’ defeat in the tournament final. Simons said the team is just as happy playing Cornell instead of getting another tournament shot at Maryland.

“A lot of people ask me, would we have rather played aryland so we could get them out of the tournament,” she said. “This team and this staff really haven’t cared too much about who we’ve been playing. When we found out what our seed was and who we were playing, it really didn’t make a whole lot of difference.”

Perhaps because Princeton is her alma mater, or perhaps because North Carolina was the only team to hand the Hoyas a loss this season, or perhaps simply because she is optimistic for her team, Simons has great expectations for Friday night’s second game. The only prediction Simons will make for the 7:30 p.m. Princeton-UNC game is to say she expects to see high offensive output on both sides, even against such high-powered defenses.

Again, Simons cites the experience brought to each team by its seniors as an important factor. Princeton’s seniors are having their third go at the Final Four, while UNC is making its first appearance since 1998.

“I think it’s going to be a bloodbath, and it could be also a track meet. Both of those squads can get up and down the field like no other teams in Division I, so it could be a fun game to watch. We’re just hoping they tire themselves out so that if we get to Sunday we’ll have a little easier time,” Simons said with a laugh.

But before they reach Sunday’s tournament final, the Hoyas first have to take care of business against Cornell. On this graduation weekend, it seems fitting to say that a win for Georgetown tonight could be contingent on the play of its seniors. Defenders Sue Graser and Danielle Boehmcke will help goalie Chandler Vicchio stop Cornell from scoring, while Kate Ahearn leads the midfield.

Senior attack Erin Elbe, a Tewaaraton Trophy finalist, will play a vital role in tonight’s game, as she has all season. Hers will be the job of leading the attack against the potent defense of Cornell.

The Hoyas are trying to keep focused on tonight’s game. At the same time they are excited for the possibility of a repeat of last season’s run to the tournament final – this time with a different outcome for Georgetown.

If Georgetown beats Cornell, the Hoyas will take on the winner of the Princeton-UNC game for the national title on Sunday. The tournament final will be played at Loyola College in Baltimore, d., set for a 1 p.m. draw.

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