Nothing, not even several sticks to the face, could stop midfielder Miles Whitman ’04 from racking up six goals and an assist as the women’s lacrosse team defeated Rutgers 10-8 at Johnson Field yesterday.

The Scarlet Knights grabbed a 2-0 lead less than four minutes into the game, but the Elis (5-3, 2-1 Ivy) came back strong. Whitman netted two unassisted goals of her own to tie the game, the first two tallies of a 7-2 Yale run. Yale could not finish Rutgers off in the second half and the pesky Scarlet Knights kept things close.

“We had a four goal lead [in the first half], and I thought we were going to be able to build upon that, but we fell a little short,” Yale head coach Amanda O’Leary said.

After netting just four goals on 19 shots in the first half, the Scarlet Knights outscored the Bulldogs 4-3 in the second half, tallying four goals on seven shots.

“That’s one of the attributes of [our] team — that they have really good fighting spirit,” Rutgers head coach Laura Brand said. “When we match up against other teams, we may not have more skill on paper, but we have a lot more heart.”

Even with their resolve, the Scarlet Knights simply could not find an answer for Whitman, who leads Yale in goals and assists with 35 and 19 respectively in just 10 games this season.

“[Whitman has] outstanding speed, which is hard to match,” Brand said.

The Eli midfielder and Baltimore native also leads the Ivy League in both goals and assists per game.

“I was just so pissed at the poor [officiating] and [Rutgers’] checks,” Whitman said. “We were just getting beat up all over the field.”

Early in the game, Whitman suffered a facial injury, originally feared to be a broken nose. However, medical attention at Undergraduate Health Services revealed that the nose is only badly bruised.

In what was a very physical game — the teams combined for five minor penalties, four of them going to Rutgers — the Elis persevered and pulled off the win. Yale will need to handle that contact better in upcoming games.

“It was physical at both ends,” O’Leary said. “We need to be a little tougher and absorb some of those hits and be able to put the ball in the net.”

On the defensive side, the Elis held Rutgers’ leading scorer Katie Batiuk to just one goal. Yale captain Jen Kessel ’04 and midfielder Lisa Reindl ’05 led the defensive corps.

Kessel caused one turnover and picked up two ground balls, while Reindl recorded one caused turnover and a game-high four ground balls.

“Lisa Reindl played a tremendous game in the defensive end,” O’Leary said. “She came up with some big interceptions. She came up with some big blocks. She had one of the best games I’ve seen her play all season.”

In net for the Elis, Lonnie Sarnell ’06 made nine saves, including several clutch stops in the games closing minutes despite some defensive mix-ups in front of her.

“In the last two minutes of the game, we did not even pick up the ball carrier, so we had some confusion,” O’Leary said.

There will not be much room for error this Saturday when the Elis head to the Garden State to face No. 1 Princeton (10-0, 2-0), the defending National Champion. The game will be nationally televised on the CSTV network.

Last year, the Elis defeated the Tigers at home in a 7-6 barnburner that went down to the wire.

Princeton’s average margin of victory this season is over six goals, with Lindsey Biles leading the offense with 3.11 goals per game entering yesterday, second only to Whitman in the conference.

“Against Princeton, we’re going to need a total team effort, and we need to clean it up,” O’Leary said

Already with one loss to Dartmouth (5-2, 3-0), the Elis will likely need to defeat Princeton and hope the Tigers take care of business against the Big Green on April 24 to earn a share of the Ivy crown.

“It’s exciting because we know what we can do against a top ranked team,” Whitman said. “We have nothing to lose [this Saturday].”