The Ivy League title remains within reach for the women’s lacrosse team.
Despite some trouble in the early going, nationally ranked No. 12 Yale (11-3, 5-1 Ivy) picked up where it left a week ago, winning its third straight game against Brown (4-8, 2-3) 15-10 Wednesday afternoon at Brown’s Stevenson Field.
Yale needs a win over Cornell (8-4, 3-2) and a No. 7 Princeton (9-4, 4-1) victory over No. 6 Dartmouth (9-2, 6-0) this weekend to secure itself a piece of the Ivy League crown. After the midweek victory over the Bears, the Elis are prepared to keep up their end of the deal.
“[The Brown win] has definitely given us more confidence,” midfielder Miles Whitman ’04 said. “Whereas in the past years we may have folded under the pressure of an early four-goal deficit, it only took us half of a half to retake the lead. Everyone is going to be very focused in practices this week, and everyone is going to be looking to channel this win into this weekend.”
After a week-long hiatus, Yale had some rust to dust in Providence. Brown pounced early, taking a 5-2 lead 10:57 into the game off three unanswered goals. The Elis thought they had an answer for the Bears; Sarah Queener ’03 scored two minutes later.
But the Bears kept up the attack, netting two goals 35 seconds apart to extend their lead to 7-3 with just over 13 minutes left in the first half.
The Elis’ early woes gave head coach Amanda O’Leary a horrifying sense of deja vu; the Elis seemed doomed for a repeat of the upset they suffered to Rutgers two weeks ago.
“We struggled defensively early on,” O’Leary said. “[Brown] was scoring in transition on us. That was something that gave us problems against Rutgers, and I thought ‘oh no, it’s all coming back again.'”
But after calling a strategic timeout to calm her players, O’Leary was rewarded with an 11-0 Yale run. With 12:36 left in the first half, midfielder Katie Sargent ’03 converted a pass from Queener to awaken the Yale offense. The nightmare did not end for Brown until 40 minutes later.
Queener paced the Bulldogs with six goals and an assist. Midfielders Sarah Driscoll ’05 and Whitman each recorded a hat trick. But the Elis shared the wealth: three other Elis scored goals, and six different Bulldogs notched assists.
“[Queener] definitely dominated their defense,” O’Leary said. “Their goalie played an outstanding game, but Sarah [Queener] just took her time to get the ball around [the goalie].”
Despite Yale’s delayed burst, O’Leary said her players must play better hosting Cornell this weekend.
“We definitely did not come out as strongly as I would have liked,” O’Leary said. “I was disappointed with the first 15 minutes of the game. Even after we got it together, we were still making some mental mistakes, and I was disappointed with the decision-making out there. We need the full 60 minutes if we’re going to beat Cornell this weekend.”
Pegged to finish fifth in the nation by Lacrosse Magazine’s Preseason rankings, the Big Red started the season 6-0. But Cornell has stumbled since, dropping from the Ivy League crown race with losses to Princeton 9-2 and Dartmouth 7-6. In the last two weeks, Cornell has dropped six spots to No. 13 in the IWLCA national rankings.
Despite its recent woes, Cornell remains dangerous. As a unit, the Big Red leads the league in goals (12.08 per game), assists (5.75 per game), and ground balls (32.9 per game). Cornell is also outperforming Yale on the defensive end, allowing just 6.9 points per game from opponents and causing 11.3 turnovers per contest.
Cornell’s trump card is senior attacker Sarah Averson, a second-team All-American and First Team All-Ivy selection last season. Averson, a Tewaaraton candidate this season, currently leads the league in scoring (2.83 goals per game) and points (3.82 points per game).
Last week, Averson earned her second Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week award, becoming the first person this season with two such accolades. In Cornell’s last two games, Averson tallied 11 points, including seven goals and four assists.
One of the reasons Princeton dominated Cornell 9-2 April 4 was because Tiger defender Rachel Becker held Averson scoreless for 60 minutes. As a testament to Averson’s offensive prowess, Becker’s defensive performance earned her Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week honors. Yale will need to replicate Becker and Princeton’s defensive performance if it hopes to keep its Ivy League Championship hopes alive.
The Bulldogs have some experience defending marquee players. During their 7-6 victory over Princeton April 12, Yale had to contend with Theresa Sherry, a First-Team All American last season and a Tewaaraton candidate this season. Integral to Yale’s success against Sherry was midfielder Sarah Driscoll ’05, who held the Ivy League’s third-highest scorer to just one goal and no assists. Despite Driscoll’s success face-guarding Sherry, O’Leary has a different tactic planned for Averson.
“We’ve prepped Sarah [Driscoll] a little bit just in case we have to [assign Driscoll to face-guard Averson], but I think we’ll be going in trying to play them straight up,” O’Leary said. “Against Princeton, the needs were very specific, and we knew exactly what we had to do. Cornell has a very balanced attack that if we shut down one player, they have plenty of other weapons they can turn to.”
Cornell has beaten Yale in each of their last three meetings, making it the only team Yale seniors have not beaten during their tenure. After last year’s 10-9 overtime heartbreaker in Ithaca, the Elis are ready to end the Big Red’s streak.
“Certainly, for the seniors on our team, beating Cornell is a big thing right now,” Queener said. “But [Cornell] also has a lot of senior leaders on their team, and they are definitely a very emotional team, as well. We need to come out strong and make sure we control the intensity and we control the tempo of the game.”