PRINCETON, N.J. - Such a long, long time to be gone ... and a short time to be there.
The end, albeit painful, came mercifully quick last night for the Loyola women's soccer team, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champion making its first appearance in the NCAA Division I championships.
Idle since knocking off Marist in the MAAC title game in Orlando, Fla., on Nov. 4, the Greyhounds started slowly, and host Princeton scored three goals in the first 21 minutes to win, 3-1, at Lourie-Love Field and advance to tomorrow's second-round, College Cup game against Rutgers.
"I don't think we were quite ready for the pace of it," Loyola coach Joe Mallia said of the first half, which saw all but a few minutes dominated by the No. 22 Tigers (14-2-2).
"It's one thing to be ready in your mind but quite another once you step onto the field. Princeton did not let us breathe."
The Tigers, making their third consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament, outshot Loyola (9-9-2) 15-3 in the first half and 26-10 overall as Janine Wells, Esmeralda Negron and Krista Ariss had all scored by the time freshman Jeannetta McGettigan converted a cross from Sarah Raab to end the Princeton run with Loyola's only goal at the 40:28 mark.
Loyola and Princeton had split the only two games of the series, which began in 1999, and the teams shared just one common opponent this season, Fairfield.
"From the beginning, we knew they would come out tough," said Loyola midfielder Sarah Lindenmuth, one of just two Greyhound seniors. "It's definitely hard going against a team like Princeton that plays such tactical soccer. It was just too big of a deficit to overcome."
An energetic start by Loyola to a scoreless second half put the Tigers on their heels, and although they would not get another goal past Tigers keeper Catherine Glenn, Mallia kept coaching and his Greyhounds kept playing.
"We definitely made a better account for ourselves from the end of the first half and into the second," Mallia said. "We just dug ourselves too big of a hole."
Goals: L-McGettigan; P-Willis, Negron, Ariss. Assists: L-Raab; P-Cundey 2, Gober. Saves: L-Ruppel 10; P-Glenn 3. Half: P, 3-1.