Elis waltz by Lions, set for top-10 tango

Win more draws — check. Fight harder for groundballs — check. Get more movement and production out of the offense — check.

That’s about what the women’s lacrosse team’s to-do list looked like after demolishing Columbia.

Coming off an 11-5 loss at Princeton, the No. 12 Bulldogs (8-2, 4-1 Ivy) regained some momentum with an 18-4 pounding of the cellar-dwelling Lions (6-7, 0-5) at Johnson Field Wednesday. In addition to being an important Ivy League win, it was a chance for the team to get back to the basics as they prepare to square off with a pair of heavyweights — Notre Dame and Duke — this weekend.

“We were the ones that needed to challenge ourselves. We needed to elevate our play,” captain Megan Strenski ’02 said. “[The Columbia game] was definitely good for our confidence.”

To challenge the team, the coaching staff gave the players a number of specific goals to reach, including reducing fouls, playing effective team defense, and winning the majority of draws and groundballs. The Elis delivered on all counts.

Thanks to a stifling defense and solid goaltending, the Lions were only able to connect on four of their 21 shots. Goalies Amanda Laws ’03 and C.K. Barber ’02 combined to stop 13 shots.

Yale dominated the draw, winning 14 to Columbia’s six and scooped up 22 groundballs, 13 more than the Lions.

Miles Whitman ’04 tallied five of Yale’s season-high 18 goals. Sarah Queener ’03, Anne Myers ’04, Sarah Driscoll ’05 and Clarissa Clarke ’03 each found the net twice for the Bulldogs.

“We focused on attack on handling the ball well and taking our time,” Whitman said. “This game was a good opportunity to just work on the basics — things that we can not take for granted this weekend.”

The Elis travel to South Bend, Ind., for a pair of games against top-10 opponents. Saturday, they face No. 7 Duke (6-4), followed by a Sunday contest against No. 9 Notre Dame (8-2). With the exception of Cornell, ranked fifth in the country, the Irish and the Blue Devils should be Yale’s stiffest competition over the rest of the regular season.

The Bulldogs need a strong non-conference showing to make a strong claim for an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament. A pair of wins this weekend would eliminate any doubt that the Elis deserve to be in the postseason, head coach Amanda O’Leary said.

Last year, Yale was in a nearly identical situation but dropped a 5-2 defensive struggle against Duke and then played uninspired lacrosse in a 9-6 loss to Notre Dame.

“Both teams don’t make very many mistakes,” said O’Leary, who also noted that her players must make their opponents pay when those rare miscues occur. “That is something they really have to focus on. The team definitely capitalized on Columbia’s mistakes.”

Fatigue could play a role in the back-to-back games, but the Elis do not have to worry about being mentally ready to play.

“The team is so excited,” Whitman said. “[These games] are huge.”

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