If Wednesday was women’s lacrosse captain Megan Strenski’s ’02 curtain call at Johnson Field, it was certainly a fitting one.
On Senior Day, the three-time All-Ivy defenseman directed a suffocating defensive effort as No. 9 Yale doubled up Rutgers 8-4 yesterday afternoon. With the win, the Bulldogs (11-4) move closer to earning the program’s first-ever NCAA tournament berth.
“Hopefully, that was not our last home game,” Strenski said. “Our defense was phenomenal.”
Strenski was far from alone in the dominating defensive performance. Fellow defenseman Jenn Kessel ’04 and goalie Amanda Laws ’03 also played brilliantly in thwarting Rutgers’ offense. The Scarlet Knights (7-8) went without a goal for 43 minutes, scoring their third goal at the 13:23 mark of the first half but failing to score again until the final 30 seconds of the game.
“Megan Strenski, Jen Kessel and Amanda Laws played a tremendous game,” head coach Amanda O’Leary said. “Lucky for us, the defensive unit stayed in it.”
The defense’s strong play picked up the slack for a Yale offense that was not at its best. Errant passes, forced shots and a lack of communication, especially at the start of the game, added up to a mediocre eight-goal performance.
“We had a little trouble in the beginning putting it together on both ends,” said Laws, who allowed only 3 goals while making 12 saves in over 58 minutes of work. “Our defense stepped up, giving the attack the chance to settle down.”
A hat trick by Katie Sargent ’05 powered the Yale offense. Over the course of two halves, she scored three straight Eli goals. On the last, coming at 22:16 of the second half, a cutting Sargent took a pass from Sarah Queener ’03 and beat the Rutgers’ goalie top shelf for what proved to be the game-winner.
Goals from Lisa Reindl ’05 and Sophie Melniker ’04 midway through the second half gave Yale a 7-3 lead, sealing up the victory.
“We got lucky. We dodged a bullet right here,” O’Leary said. “It was not what we were looking for in preparation to take the next step.”
That next step would be a trip to the 16-team NCAA tournament, which could be in the cards for the Bulldogs if they can win their regular season finale Sunday at Hofstra. Two Ivy teams, No. 1 Princeton and No. 6 Cornell, are ahead of the Elis in the league standings and seem to have locked up bids. Yet despite being third in the Ancient Eight, a win at Hofstra might be enough to get Yale off the bubble and into the tourney when the field is announced May 5.
“We have the strength of schedule and the winning percentage,” O’Leary said. “There are a lot of things in our favor.”
There are other matchups involving bubble teams that could affect the Bulldogs’ chances, but no game matters more than Sunday’s contest at Hofstra.
“We are not looking past them. We are looking at it as a stepping stone to the NCAA tournament,” Laws said. “If we look past them, they’ll take us any day of the week.”
Notes: The team’s two seniors, Strenski and goalie C.K. Barber ’02, were honored in a pre-game ceremony — Clarissa Clarke ’03, coming off a concussion suffered in Saturday’s overtime loss to Cornell, was able to play limited minutes in yesterday’s game.