The only two undefeated women’s lacrosse teams that remain in the Ivy League are the No. 8 Bulldogs (8-0, 3-0 Ivy) and the No. 3 Princeton Tigers (7-1, 2-0 Ivy), making this weekend’s contest between the two at Johnson Field a rumble of the titans.
And if the Elis’ 16-5 manhandling of Holy Cross (8-4) Wednesday night is any indication of what they will do Saturday, the Tigers are in for a dogfight.
The Elis will have momentum on their side this weekend, riding an eight-game winning streak and having just come off one of their most consistent games of the year.
“We put together two successful halves and maintained that intensity that we’ve been looking for,” leading scorer Miles Whitman ’04 said, who averages over four goals a game.
In Wednesday’s match, Whitman set the pace for the Elis, scoring the first of eight consecutive Yale goals only 23 seconds into the match.
Attacker Caroline Petrovik ’03 added a pair of goals while attacker Katherine Myers ’01 and midfielder Ali Cobbett ’03 each notched one to bring the score to 5-0 before even 10 minutes had passed.
Then the star rookie Whitman took to the offensive like a scoring machine, tallying the next three Bulldogs goals.
“Miles was really a spark for us,” head coach Amanda O’Leary said.
The Crusaders tried desperately to rally back, squeaking out two goals before the half’s end, but this contest was all Yale.
“Yale really limited our opportunities on offense by just taking the ball away at midfield,” Holy Cross head coach Paul Ramsey said. “They just went to the goal and shot the ball [better than we did].”
The second half was more of the same. This time midfielder Kate Flatley ’01 scored twice — in just 10 seconds — and the team’s second leading scorer Clarissa Clarke ’03 made her presence known in the crease with a goal, as did attacker Clara Gillespie ’01.
Sophie Melniker ’04, the Ivy League offensive player of the week, also notched one.
“It’s hard to count on freshmen just because of their inexperience, but you can count on [Jenn Kessel, Melniker and Whitman],” said Gillespie, referring to the three freshmen starters.
Those three rookies along with a strong corps of five seniors, make this squad well balanced — a main reason the Bulldogs have remained undefeated.
“That’s one great thing about this year’s team. We have a lot of depth,” Gillespie said. “There’s not one weak position on the field.”
The game was capped with attacker Katherine Riva ’04 earning her first collegiate goal.
Wednesday’s complete team effort included nine different Bulldogs putting marks on the scoreboard.
“The nice thing about [Wednesday’s] game was that everyone played,” Coach O’Leary said. “That’s a big morale booster.”
O’Leary also noted a few performances on the defensive end of the ball like the play of Ashley Ford ’04 who blocked several crucial shots in the game.
With the momentum from Wednesday’s game, the Elis now focus their attention on their toughest Ivy rival — the Orange and Black.
Saturday’s meeting will most likely play a big role in determining who will earn the Ivy title this year, since Princeton is only one-half game behind the Ivy League leading Bulldogs.
But Princeton will pose the biggest challenge of the season so far for the seemingly unstoppable Bulldogs, and this weekend will be a true test of wills.
“The team just has in its mind that they aren’t going to settle for anything,” O’Leary said. “They told themselves they were going to win games no matter what it takes and they pulled it off.”
And rankings and nerves don’t phase the Bulldogs either. They have proven repeatedly that they can handle the pressure.
“It is daunting [to know Princeton is ranked No. 3], but we’re amazing too,” Gillespie said. “We used to always lose to Dartmouth and to Princeton, but this year we’re 8-0, and that’s just amazing.”
The Bulldogs already knocked off No. 11 Dartmouth two weeks ago, and the team is looking to bring the same intensity they had against the Big Green to Johnson Field this weekend.
And the Elis know the Tigers are not infallible, despite what O’Leary classified as an All-American stacked lineup.
“They dropped balls all the time [last year],” Gillespie said. “They weren’t the better team when they beat us last year.”
The key to a victory will be confidence.
“Princeton always comes out really hard and that’s one thing that has historically put us on our heels,” Gillespie said. “There defense is everywhere and they are intimidating — but we proved we knew what we were doing against Dartmouth.”
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