Courtesy of Yale Athletics

With eight of last season’s starters returning to the lineup and the addition of nine top-ranked freshmen, the Yale women’s lacrosse team is setting its sights on both the Ivy League and NCAA tournaments this season.

Last year the Bulldogs struggled to finish just 5–10, with only two conferences wins against Ivy cellar-dwellers Brown and Columbia, in an adjustment period marked by Erica LaGrow’s first season as head coach and a team consisting primarily of underclassmen. Even so, the Elis only narrowly missed out on a spot in the Ivy League Tournament after falling to Harvard in their final game and facing tough losses against nationally-ranked teams like Boston College, Penn and Princeton late in the season.

“One of our big goals is making the Ivy tournament,” midfielder Maggie Pizzo ’18 said. “This year I think we finally have the team to do it, especially with a year under our belt with our head coach, Erica LaGrow, who has done such amazing things for our program in just one season.”

Now, captained by last season’s leading scorer, attacker Tess McEvoy ’17, the Elis are ready to tackle a tough 2017 schedule that includes matchups against five teams ranked nationally, including fellow Ancient Eight competitors No. 11 Penn, No. 13 Princeton and No. 16 Cornell. In preparation for the season, the Elis have been hard at work since the fall.

“The fall is crucial for getting the freshmen on the same page with how we play and just generally getting our sticks back in our hands after the summer,” McEvoy said. “This year especially we focused on lifting [because] we got two new amazing strength and conditioning coaches, Thomas Newman and Mike Harris, who really helped us step up our game and become much stronger and faster.”

McEvoy will be helped out on offense by a trio of returning attackers. After tallying nine, 15 and 11 goals respectively last season, Kiwi Comizio ’18, Hope Hanley ’17 and Lily Smith ’18 will all play crucial roles in the Bulldogs’ offense this year.

On the other end of the field, defender Victoria Moore ’17 led the team with 27 ground balls, defender Cooper Hall ’18 caused 12 turnovers to rank second on the team and defender Emily Markham ’17 was named an honorable mention All-Ivy selection.

Yale goalie Sydney Marks ’18 gained valuable experience last year, starting every game for the Elis and saving a total 130 shots after seeing minimal field time her freshman year. This experience in the goal will be a key part in grounding Yale’s defense against top-scoring opponents like Boston College.

“I was amazed by the immediate welcome and warmth from the team both on and off the lacrosse field,” midfielder Vanessa Yu ’20 said. “Embracing us as their new teammates, the girls guided us through the rigor of maintaining a balance between academics and varsity athletics.”

The nine newest additions to the team bring experience and leadership from both their high school and club teams. Midfielders Barrett Carlson ’20 and Lindsay Hogan ’20 were first-team All-Americans during high school and midfielder Hannah Logan ’20, defender Hannah Burgess ’20 and defender Julia Watt ’20 all led their teams to one or more state championships. Additionally, eight of the nine captained their teams during their high school careers.

The team will need to fill the gaps left by members of the class of 2016 including former captain and defender Kate Walker ’16, who led the team with 27 ground balls on the season, and attacker Lauren Wackerle ’16, who scored 10 goals for the Bulldogs during 2016.

Highlights in the schedule include an early rivalry game at Harvard on March 4 and Senior Day on April 1, when Yale plays a doubleheader, hosting both Sacred Heart and Stanford at Reese Stadium.

The season opens with Yale traveling to New York to face off against Albany on Saturday at 3 p.m.