Strong frosh will play key roles in Elis’ title run

Women’s lacrosse recruits seem to be getting better and better.

After last year’s freshman class, which brought the Elis both their starting goalkeeper, Ellen Cameron ’08, and All-Ivy midfielder Lauren Taylor ’08, it seemed as though Yale would be hard-pressed to find a more promising set of rookies. But after watching the Class of 2009 help take down the University of Connecticut in a 6-5 overtime battle Wednesday afternoon, it is evident that the Bulldogs just may have found a group to surpass last year’s freshman class.

Midfielder Taylor Fragapane ’09 and defender Jenn Warden ’09 earned spots on the starting lineup, and midfielders Sara Greenberg ’09 and Linden Ellis ’09 came off the bench during the Elis’ season opener to give fans at Johnson Field a taste of what they can expect from the freshmen this season. Only the sophomore class had more players on the field yesterday than the freshmen.

“They really did step up,” captain Sarah Scalia ’06 said. “They came up with big plays when we needed them to. They came out with a lot of speed and intensity, which is something that sparks the whole team.”

Neither Fragapane nor Warden showed the signs of immaturity and inexperience that freshmen generally possess on the field their first time out. It was more common to hear Yale head coach Mandee O’Leary shouting directions at her upperclassmen than at her rookies.

“They certainly have added a tremendous amount to this team,” O’Leary said. “We are very deep this year, and our freshmen contribute to that. I’m looking forward to having them on the field.”

Fragapane in particular had an outstanding game for the Elis. She picked up five ground balls, the most of any of the Bulldogs, and caused four turnovers, statistics indicative of her speed and hustle. Fragapane scored her first career goal with 20:55 remaining in the first half, when she grabbed a pass from attacker Carli Vogler ’06 and fired a shot past UConn goaltender Kristen Haldeman.

But Fragapane’s contributions yesterday extended beyond statistics. She was quick in transition and carried the ball well up the field. In overtime, after Taylor scored the game-winning goal, Fragapane controlled the final draw, allowing the Elis to hold onto the ball and deny UConn a last-minute attempt to score.

Perhaps even more important than the freshmen’s contributions to the attack or defense are the enthusiasm and energy they bring to the field.

“It was just a lot of excitement,” Taylor said. “We’ve got a lot of new players on the field this year. And everyone was excited especially because it was the first game, you just want to get out there and enjoy not having practice.”

Despite their unquestionable talent and positive attitudes, the freshmen still have much to learn and will benefit from more experience as the season goes on. At one point late in the first half, Ellis was clearly out of position on the Bulldogs’ play, prompting an outburst from O’Leary.

The Class of 2009 has a long way to go before it can measure up to Taylor, who led the team in scoring last season, and Cameron, whose 13 stops saved the Bulldogs from another UConn surge in overtime. But with their coaches and teammates entrusting so much confidence in the rookies so early in the season, it’s hard to imagine that the freshmen will not make a major impact in the Elis’ Ivy League title run this season.

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