The women’s lacrosse team was tired of losing to No. 12 Dartmouth year after year. So this weekend, the No. 15 Bulldogs finally ended the 10-year losing streak, and did so in convincing fashion.
The Elis (5-0, 2-0 Ivy) collapsed one of the best defenses in the nation en route to a 13-7 upset of the Big Green (2-1, 0-1) Saturday at Johnson Field.
“Having the history that we have with Dartmouth — always playing close games where the outcomes were too often loses — this was an incredible win,” head coach Amanda O’Leary said.
In a seesaw match that had both teams exchanging goals throughout the first half, Yale finally broke away midway through the second stanza with four straight goals to pull out with an 11-6 lead. The Big Green never recovered.
But no one would have ever predicted such a lopsided victory from the Elis based on the first 40 minutes of play. Dartmouth opened up the scoring only two minutes into regulation and built a 4-2 lead by the 10th minute. Poor passes and multiple turnovers undermined the Yale offense in the early going, forcing the Elis back on their heels.
However, the Bulldogs quickly resolved these problems and overcame the frigid weather to storm back.
Soon star attackers Miles Whitman ’04 and Clarissa Clarke ’03 could not miss. Whitman’s coast-to-coast effort at 18:26 rallied the Elis while Clarke’s three first-half, top-shelf bullets had the Big Green scratching their heads all afternoon.
They each tallied three goals by the end of the first half, while Caroline Petrovik ’03 threaded the needle to give the Elis a 7-5 lead.
“We needed to just get into our game and we did — we played through our nerves,” O’Leary said.
But the second half looked anything but easy for the home team, as the Bulldogs started it without leading scorer Whitman, who sprained her ankle in the first half.
And Dartmouth was not about to roll over.
The Big Green came out swinging, stepping up the physical intensity of the game. After battling for over 10 minutes without a goal, Suzy Gibbons broke the standoff to cut the Yale lead to one, 7-6. Gibbons had a hat-trick on the day.
Then Yale pulled away for good.
“At that point, our coach said we were playing well, but we needed to step it up a notch,” Eli defender Mollie Ricker ’01 said. “And we did.”
The senior pair of Katherine Myers ’01 and Kate Flatley ’01 combined for the first of the four straight Bulldog scores after a huge offensive steal. Attacker Sarah Queener ’03, Flatley and Pertovik were the other scorers in the barrage.
The momentum had shifted totally in Yale’s favor, and the Bulldogs remained calm as they rode their adrenalin rush home.
“I don’t even think I was aware of the score,” Myers said of the four-goal streak.
With the 11-7 lead, Yale ran a stall offense, controlling the ball in the Dartmouth zone with precision passing. Dartmouth struggled to regain control, but Yale dominated the final 10 minutes with superior ball control, allowing only a single Big Green goal.
Clarke put the nail in the coffin with a tally in the last five minutes, and attacker Jenn Kessel ’04 scored her first collegiate goal with 3.2 seconds remaining to send the Big Green packing.
“This year, our defense has to be our strength and we had big breakdowns in defense today,” Dartmouth head coach Amy Patton said. “If our defense is going to give up that many goals, we’re just not going to win games.”
With the win, the Elis have only No. 4 Princeton to beat for a legitimate shot at the Ivy League crown.
The Ancient Eight title has belonged either to a Tiger or a Big Green team since 1993.
“This was a step we needed to take to break through to the next level,” team captain Liz Gardner ’01 said. “They were a team we were supposed to lose to on paper.”
Dartmouth came into the weekend’s game having defeated No. 6 Boston University in triple overtime Wednesday.
The Bulldogs will also look forward to having freshman phenom Whitman back on the turf April 7 when the Tigers travel to the Elm City.
But first, the Elis will focus their attention on this Wednesday’s game at Fairfield.
“On any day any given team can win in lacrosse,” O’Leary said. “So we’re already preparing for next week against Fairfield.”
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