The prospect of opening the season away from home against an ex-coach can seem daunting, and even awkward. But the women’s lacrosse team was not concerned with the weird subplots that surrounded its game. Rather, the Bulldogs were focused on the task at hand — defeating Fairfield (1-1).
That is exactly what they did Wednesday afternoon when they defeated the Stags in an overtime thriller.
“I’m very proud of how we battled,” head coach Anne Phillips said of the Elis (1-0, 0-0 Ivy). “To start the season with an away game, young players and new starters is tough. I was really pleased of how well they played for the full game.”
But the Elis’ new roster is not limited to seven new freshmen and eight new starters. The sideline is also new, beginning with Phillips. The new Joel E. Smilow Class of 1954 head coach is the program’s eighth coach in its 32-year history. Phillips replaced Laura Field, who sat across from the Elis as the Stags’ assistant coach.
“In addition to having a new cast of players, we also have a new coaching staff and a new system,” Phillips said. “The players have worked hard and adapted well to the new system.”
On the field, the Bulldogs were a little sluggish in the first half.
Fairfield came out and seized an early lead. The Stags’ first goal came in just over 30 seconds, and after the first seven minutes had elapsed, the Elis were already down 4-0.
But the Bulldogs were not deterred.
“We just needed to get in a rhythm and chip away at their lead slowly but surely,” captain and midfielder Taylor Fragapane ’09 said.
Fragapane, who had two assists — including the one in overtime — said that while the team might not always start strong every game, they always come together and rely on their team unity.
The Bulldogs finally got their first goal when midfielder Jenn Warden ’09 found herself with a one-on-one opportunity against a Fairfield defender.
“When I got the ball, I saw that people had cleared to my right, which is my strong side,” Warden said. “So I decided to go with it and luckily it went in.”
Warden tallied three goals in the game. Attacker Jessica Strugill ’10 recorded a team-high four goals on nine shots, while fellow attackers Kerry Hamill ’12, with one goal, and Jenna Block ’10, with three goals and two assists, rounded out the Elis’ offense.
But even though the Bulldogs settled in on the attack, they were still trailing the Stags 7-4 at halftime.
The first 20 minutes following the intermission were pretty slow offensively for both teams. Two goals by each team left the Bulldogs down 9-6 with 10 minutes left in regulation.
But the Elis were not concerned since they were playing solid defense, and they knew that would translate to opportunities on offense.
“At halftime, we made some adjustments on defense and that really helped us control the game,” Phillips said. “The defense and goal-keeping really picked up in the second half.”
Goalie Whitney Quackenbush ’12 recorded six saves on nine attempts in her play in the second half and the overtime. Katie Janian ’11 defended the goal in the first half with three saves.
By the end of regulation, the Bulldogs had finally fought back and had drawn even with the Stags, 10-10.
“We had confidence in our ability to come back,” Warden said. “Our processions were vital, and even though we were down, we knew we had the arsenal to come back.”
The Bulldogs brought their arsenal and newly found momentum into the overtime to finish off the Stags. With just 1:25 left in overtime, Fragapane found Block for the game winning goal. The Elis might have needed a few extra minutes to do it, but they completed their comeback for a victory over Fairfield.
For the Bulldogs, the win was exactly what they wanted to start the season.
“We wanted to test the waters and see what works today,” Fragapane said. “We’re still working on some kinks, but it’s nice to get those first game jitters out the way.”