Are you tired of watching games in which the brawniest players push and shove their way to success? Sick of watching Shaquille O’Neal act the bully against smaller opponents? Had enough of seeing oversized power hitters swing for the fences when a single to the opposite field would do the trick?
Well I’m going to let you in on one of the best-kept secrets around the Yale campus. If you’re thirsting for some pure athletic competition with a premium on quickness and agility, get yourself over to the newly opened Johnson Field on Central Avenue and take a look at the Yale women’s lacrosse team.
Yes, the No. 8 Bulldogs suffered their first loss of the season against third-ranked Princeton, 13-8 at Johnson Stadium, but this team learned that it could compete with anyone in the country. Of course, they should not be satisfied with the result — I’ve always thought that no Yale team should derive much satisfaction from losing to any Ivy League foe.
But after falling behind 8-2 early in the second half, it appeared as though the Tigers would blow the Bulldogs away. The Elis rallied, however, scoring five straight goals to bring the crowd to its feet.
Princeton buckled down and scored five of the next six goals to improve its record to 8-1, while the Bulldogs dropped to an identical 8-1. The Tigers are now the lone unbeaten team in Ivy play.
But let’s get back to the point here. I had been to a few women’s lacrosse games over the last couple years, when the Yale women played their home games at the Yale Bowl. Over at the cavernous football stadium, I always felt disconnected from what was happening on the field.
This was probably just my ignorance, but it always seemed like the team with the fastest player would win, simply because the other players would be unable to stop her forward progress.
Watching the game at Johnson Field, however, offers a whole new perspective. Not only are the stands closer to the action, but the artificial turf playing surface also shows spectators just how important quickness, footwork and body position are to the game.
Without the body contact and stick work of the men’s game, women must rely on their instincts, speed and agility. They must also wait for the right moment to try a crossover move for a scoring chance or to attack the stick of an opponent to force a loose ball.
I never thought I would see a sport that actually seems fit for artificial turf — I have a particularly hard time watching baseball and football on the carpet — but women’s lacrosse truly is.
With all games on artificial turf, though, there is always a health risk, and women seem particularly susceptible to ACL tears. But I have to believe that if the Yale administrators had any significant doubts about the safety of the playing surface, they would not have installed the new field.
In any case, it was a pleasure to watch Liz Gardner ’01 and the rest of the Yale defense respond to Princeton’s offense with lightning-quick reactions, moving their feet in the on-going battle for body positioning.
For a time, the Yale offense executed to perfection, cutting the Princeton lead down to one. Kate Flatley ’01 and Miles Whitman ’04 had the most success, combining for five of Yale’s goals.
During Yale’s second-half run, the team’s sandy-haired exuberance struck even the most demure fans despite the overcast skies and chilling winds. Even assistant coach Cristi Samaras let loose a pair of enthusiastic cries, trying to keep the players pumped up during a break in the action.
The Bulldogs have three home games left, including showdowns with fourth-ranked Duke next Saturday and No. 13 Cornell the following week. If you’re a fan of sport without creatine and supplement-addled athletes — and one of the most successful Yale teams of the school year — make the trip over to Johnson Field for a women’s lacrosse game. My guess is that you won’t be disappointed.