W. lax’s tourney chances take a hit

In a weekend of Ivy League shakeups, the women’s lacrosse team wound up on the wrong side of a hard-fought battle.

The No. 14 Bulldogs (11-5, 4-3 Ivy) succumbed to a second-half surge by No. 18 Cornell (9-4, 4-2) to finish their regular season on a heartbreaking note — an 8-6 loss in Ithaca on Saturday. The Elis fell victim to a trend of upsets that swept the Ancient Eight over the weekend, as unexpected losses by Princeton and Yale changed the landscape of league standings just days before the season comes to a close.

Before the game, head coach Laura Field stressed the challenge that the Big Red presented to the Elis’ post-season hopes. Like Yale, Cornell was riding a four-game winning streak before Saturday’s contest and was looking to make a statement in the hunt for one of the eight at-large berths to the NCAA tournament.

At halftime, however, the Bulldogs held on to a 3-2 edge following an uncharacteristically low-scoring first period. Coming into the contest having won seven of their last eight games, the Elis were accustomed to jumping out to a much larger first-half lead, averaging over seven goals in the opening half during the eight-game span.

Despite the low offensive output, however, the Bulldogs were able to maintain a one-goal lead thanks to the efforts of captain Kat Peetz ’08, Taylor Fragapane ’09 and Jess Sturgill ’10. After the Big Red responded to Peetz’s opening tally with one of their own, Fragapane and Sturgill scored back-to-back free position shots to put the Bulldogs ahead, 3-1, with six minutes left in the half. Although Cornell was able to get within one goal three minutes later by cashing in on a free position attempt of its own, the Bulldog defense prevented the Big Red from netting the equalizer before the break.

The second period got off to a much faster start than the first, as the two teams combined for the same number of goals in the first eight minutes as they scored in the entire opening half. Unfortunately for the visitors, Yale only accounted for one of those goals — the home team opened the period on a four-goal run before the Elis could get back into the scoring action.

By the time Lauren Taylor ’08 capitalized on a free position opportunity to end Yale’s dry spell, the Big Red held a 6-4 lead and looked to run out the clock while the Bulldogs attempted to even the score. After two more quick tallies at 14:24 and 12:43, the game suddenly seemed to be shifting in Cornell’s favor for good. Taylor and Jenna Block ’10 added a goal apiece for the Elis as the minutes wound down, but it was not enough for a Bulldog comeback.

With the win, the Big Red jumped into an unexpected second-place tie with Princeton, while the Bulldogs slipped into fourth place in the Ancient Eight. Because both Cornell and Princeton have one game left to play, the Elis can still finish as high as second or third, but their fate now rests in the hands of other teams in the conference.

Saturday’s game also marked the end of the careers of the seniors on the Yale squad: offensive trio Peetz, Callahan and Taylor, as well as defenders Jess Champion ’08 and Katie Wiacek ’08 and goaltender Ellen Cameron ’08. All six were featured heavily in the Bulldog lineup throughout the 2008 season and played an integral role in racking up 11 wins for Yale’s 14th-straight winning season.

Despite the successes of the season, however, there is no doubt that Saturday’s defeat was a disappointment for the Elis, who had hoped to close out the season on a high note. After an easy 12-4 win over Brown on Senior Day last Wednesday — a win Block said the upperclassmen deserved “after putting their heart and soul into our program for four years” — players said it was sad to see the class of 2008 likely finish their outstanding careers with a loss.

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