“So sick” is not just the women’s lacrosse team’s motto, it also accurately describes the Bulldogs’ play over their last five games.
After dropping a 13-4 decision to No. 1 Princeton (14-0, 6-0 Ivy) April 10, the No. 14 Elis (12-4, 5-2) have closed out their regular season with five straight wins, outscoring their opponents by a combined 79-31. Cornell (3-9, 2-4) was the Bulldogs’ latest victim, with Yale defeating the Big Red 11-8 Saturday at Schoellkopf Field in Ithaca, N.Y.
“Especially after Princeton, it was really demoralizing and everyone just wanted to prove to ourselves that that’s not the type of team we are,” said midfielder Lindsay Levin ’07, who had a goal and an assist. “We knew we had to win out all of our games.”
Despite riding the momentum of four straight wins entering Saturday’s Ancient Eight contest, it was the Big Red who took the early lead.
“We definitely got off to a slow start,” Yale head coach Amanda O’Leary said. “We took quite a few shots but weren’t able to find the net.”
Cornell midfielders Kate Hirschfeld and Lindsay Steinberg scored the game’s first two goals, but a pair of Yale middies — Katie Sargent ’05 and Miles Whitman ’04 — responded with one goal apiece to tie the game with roughly 14 minutes left in the first half.
But midfielder Kristen Smith re-established a two-goal lead for Cornell before Yale’s offense, ranked second in the Ivies, found its groove and took over the game.
“We weren’t really connecting on the field [and] we kind of had to work out the kinks in the first five minutes,” captian Jen Kessel ’04 said. “It was just a matter of executing.”
The Elis began to execute and went on an 8-1 run, with midfielder Sarah Driscoll ’05 leading the charge, notching consecutive tallies with 8:31 and 6:23 remaining in the frame, respectively.
Senior midfielder Sophie Melniker’s 49th goal of the year off of an Aly Croffy ’05 feed at 25:47 gave Yale a 5-4 lead heading into intermission.
In the second half, Yale and Cornell traded goals before the Elis netted four scores in less than four minutes. Levin started the run with a goal off of a Lisa Reindl ’05 feed. Melniker, Whitman and Sargent followed suit to establish a 10-5 lead with just over 20 minutes to play.
One of the keys for Yale in the second half was its ability to control face-offs. In the first frame, the Big Red gained control of six of 10 draws, but in the second half, the Bulldogs controlled nine of 11. Croffy, Melniker, and Whitman had three each.
“Having possession of the ball puts you at an advantage,” O’Leary said. “In the first half we were just being out-hustled. In the second half we did a much better job of being more aggressive.”
But the Big Red refused to quit.
Quinn’s, Smith’s and Hirschfield’s goals pulled Cornell within two with just under five minutes remaining.
“Offensively, we were just making really poor decisions,” O’Leary said. “Cornell, give them a lot of credit, they played a really smart defensive game.”
Led by Kessel, the Bulldog defense buckled down and shut down the opposition for the game’s duration. Whitman gave Yale some insurance with her third of the game with nine seconds left, giving her 55 goals on the season.
Sargent did her part in the defensive end, scooping up a game-high four ground balls in addition to her three goals.
“[Sargent] certainly picked up her game,” O’Leary said. “She has come through in clutch situations for us and she did on Saturday.”
Levin also had four ground balls to complement her two goals and two draw controls.
“The seniors have been so great this year,” Levin said. “[I wanted] to give all my effort to give the seniors a good farewell game.”
In net for the Elis, Lonnie Sarnell ’06 made seven saves on 19 shots, while her counterpart, Cornell’s Maggie Fava made a career-high 14 saves on 41 shots.
With the regular season behind them, the Bulldogs now face the trying task of waiting. Princeton secured the Ivy League’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament with an undefeated conference season, leaving the third-place Elis on the bubble, along with No. 12 Dartmouth (9-3, 6-1), who fell to the Tigers 17-8 Saturday.
Hurting Yale’s chances is a 0-4 record against the nation’s top 20.
“We have to wait and see some of the conference tournaments [and] what comes out of those,” O’Leary said. “There have been some upsets. We’re just sitting back and waiting.”