For the first time in four years, women’s club water polo earned the sweet satisfaction of victory over Dartmouth — en route to the New England Division Championship.
After falling to the Big Green each of the past three seasons, the Bulldogs finally overcame their archrival this past weekend, capturing their first title since 2001 and securing the No. 2 seed in next weekend’s national tournament. But the road to success did not come easily — the tournament was filled with penalty shots and sudden death overtimes. The Dartmouth match alone took four overtimes to decide.
The No. 1 seeded Yale “A” team began the weekend with two easy wins, beating Yale “B” by a score of 13-1 and Williams College, 11-1. Although the Elis had not expected to face Dartmouth until the finals, a sudden-death overtime Big Green loss in the second round to Middlebury College expedited the Ivy League clash.
“For a long time, Dartmouth has been our biggest rival in the New England division,” said Rebecca Voorhees ’07, who co-captains the team with Elizabeth Schurgin ’07. “We have always played very tentatively against them.”
Yale head coach Vince Elizarde said his team knew the importance of this game.
“We had always had problems with Dartmouth,” Elizarde said. “But we knew it was all or nothing. Everything was dependent on that game.”
The Bulldogs began the game with confidence and jumped out to an early lead. But after playing a strong first half, the Elis found themselves in an all-too-familiar position against Dartmouth, down three goals entering the fourth quarter.
In the break before the final frame, the team decided this year would be different.
“This was what we had worked so hard for all year,” Lauren Taft-McPhee ’06 said. “It was our last shot, and we weren’t going to give it up so easily.”
The team responded to the pressure and came out in the fourth quarter with renewed motivation and stifling defense. Then Galen Main ’06 took over, scoring three consecutive goals to tie the game up and send it into overtime.
After neither team scored in the first three overtime quarters, Main finally put the game away with a minute and a half left in the fourth overtime to steal the game, 8-7.
“By beating Dartmouth in the biggest tournament of our season, I think we have finally put to rest any mental block we had against them,” Voorhees said. “We have proven to everyone, including ourselves, that we can play with any team out there.”
Though sending the Big Green out to pasture was perhaps the most exciting and rewarding aspect of the weekend, there was still more work to be done before the Bulldogs could claim the title. The Elis, who have had great success against Middlebury in the past, came out complacent and fell behind early in the championship match. The team was down one goal heading into the fourth quarter, but a scoring frenzy, including two goals in less than 45 seconds, allowed Yale to capture the title over the Panthers, 7-4.
Yale will travel to Evanston, Ill., next weekend to compete for the national championship. Team members said they are confident about their prospects in the tournament.
“We have a lot of momentum coming off last weekend’s success,” Elizarde said. “If we keep executing like we have been on defense and capitalizing on offense, we can really make some noise.”