Yale handled Ivy League opponent Columbia easily on Wednesday, winning 15-6. But when it comes to the rest of the Ancient Eight, the Elis’ chances are hardly assured.
“Yes, it is not clear where we are going to be,” women’s lacrosse head coach Amanda O’Leary said. “But it’s been the game plan all along that we take it one game at a time. Each game is a hurdle and each game is a rung on the ladder to get to the top. Columbia was a rung today and starting tomorrow, we’re going to prepare for the next rung, for Brown next Wednesday.”
Going into Wednesday’s contest in New York City, Columbia did not have a single Ivy League win in five outings. Yale (9-3, 4-1 Ivy) continued the trend for Columbia (4-8, 0-6) as the Bulldogs led 9-1 by halftime.
With a comfortable lead, O’Leary brought on her second team, giving the backups and rookies an opportunity to show their stuff. At first, the Yale bench stumbled.
From the closing minutes of the first half to 6:25 into the second period, Columbia went on a 5-1 run that cut the Yale lead to 10-5. But the Bulldog second team found their footing, rattling off a 5-1 scoring rally of their own to close out the win.
“The 5-1 run isn’t exactly indicative of what happened,” O’Leary said. “We had to switch up some positions when we started substituting. Some of them were asked to play positions that they weren’t used to playing and thrown into situations they were unfamiliar with. But after they kind of calmed down and saw where people were coming from, they did a great job of maintaining the level of play.”
The win Wednesday was Yale’s third in a row, pulling the Bulldogs into second place in the Ivy League behind Dartmouth. But despite the recent surge and the favorable standings, Yale’s championship hopes are up in the air.
It is crowded at the top of the Ivy League. No. 7 Dartmouth (7-2, 4-0) is currently the league leader. Since beating the Bulldogs in a 7-6 nailbiter on Mar. 29, the Big Green has won four in a row, including important wins over No. 11 Syracuse 14-12 on April 11 and No. 12 Cornell (7-3, 2-2) 7-6 on April 13.
Despite being upset by Yale 7-6 last Saturday, No. 6 Princeton (7-4, 2-1) is third in the league and more hungry than ever to avenge its loss.
Two losses probably places Cornell out of the running for the Ivy League title. But the Big Red is still in the hunt for a possible at-large NCAA tournament bid and its must-win, nothing-to-lose situation makes Cornell more dangerous than ever.
On the fringes, unranked Brown (3-6, 2-1), who is currently tied for third with Princeton, will be eager to pick off any favorites who are ready to let their guard down.
Yale has only two league games left on its schedule and with such a competitive league, it will need more than just two wins to clinch the Ivy League title. Dartmouth, who is currently undefeated in the league, has only three more league games left on its schedule: against University of Pennsylvania on April 19, against Harvard on April 23, and against Princeton three days later. Assuming Dartmouth defeats Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania, a win against the Tigers would clinch the title for the Big Green. A Princeton victory would give Yale a possible share of the title.
“All of us are aware of what possibilities are out there for us and we know that some of it is out of our control,” captain Clarissa Clarke ’03 said. “But we’re pretty much just trying to use every practice and every game as a stepping stone to help get us to where we want to be. We’re all excited about the possibility of bringing home an Ivy League championship.”
But even if Yale gets a piece of the Ivy crown, it would not be guaranteed the automatic bid for the NCAA tournament. If Princeton beats Dartmouth and loses to Brown, there would a two-way tie between the Elis and Dartmouth for the Ivy championship. In this hypothetical, the automatic NCAA tournament bid will be decided based on results from season matchups; since Dartmouth defeated Yale during the season, the Big Green would get the automatic bid.
In the most likely scenario, Princeton will beat both Dartmouth and Brown, and there will be a three-way tie between Dartmouth, Princeton, and Yale for the Ivy League title. Since each team has beaten at least one other team once, the results from season matchups cannot be used to determine who gets the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
“We’ve never had a three-way tie,” O’Leary said. “I have no idea what they would do when it comes to determining the automatic bid for the [NCAA] tournament. I don’t think it can’t be a playoff since I don’t know how they would determine who would be the higher seed.”
Regardless of what happens in Princeton or Hanover, Yale needs to win its last two league games. If Yale loses either contest — against Brown on April 23 and against Cornell three days later — it can kiss its title hopes goodbye.
Even if Dartmouth defeats Princeton and seals both the Ivy crown and the automatic bid, Yale still needs to win all its games if it harbors any hopes of receiving an at-large bid.
“[Getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament] is probably unlikely,” Clarke said. “We’ve been a program that in the past has not been given a lot of respect. There are a whole bunch of teams that will be in contention for those at-large bids and it’s very difficult to say whether or not we will be picked. All we can do is make sure we win our next three games.”