Even with three of their seven scheduled matchups postponed due to winter weather, the women’s lacrosse team managed to give a sneak preview of what can be expected of their team this season — closely contested games against top-quality opponents and exceptional defensive performances.

In their season opener, the Elis (1-3, 0-1 Ivy) dominated James Madison University in a 14-7 blowout. But since then, the Bulldogs have gone 0-3, falling to Vanderbilt, Rutgers and the University of Pennsylvania.

Though disappointed with the series of losses, the Elis plan to use their early contests as building blocks for the rest of the season.

“Though each game our team defense and team attack improves, it’s extremely disappointing to not see the payoff of improvement,” captain Kerry Docherty ’05 said. “I think I can speak for the rest of the team when I say we arrived back from spring break pretty disappointed, but very eager to play again and prove to ourselves that we can have much better success.”

One of the most consistent aspects of the team’s play thus far this season has been the strength of its defense. Anchored by four seniors, the Elis’ backfield limited its four opponents to a combined total of 33 goals, and no single team managed to score more than 10 against the Bulldogs. The defense already looks much improved from last year. In the first four games of the 2004 season, the Bulldogs allowed 44 goals, including 17 by Vanderbilt — the highest any opponent managed during the season.

“Our defense was solid through all of our games,” midfielder Lindsay Levin ’07 said. “And it was able to come up with some big stops.”

The Yale offense also showed off its talent over break, particularly in the win at JMU. Six Elis tallied goals in the win, and midfielder Katherine Sargent ’05 emerged as a dominant offensive force with a game-high five goals. Midfielder Sarah Driscoll ’05 added a hat trick of her own as the Bulldogs found their first win over the Dukes in over four years. The Elis’ scoring run included seven unanswered goals during the last 20 minutes of the game.

“As far as our attack goes, we showed the most promise at our game at JMU,” Kerry Docherty said. “Six different people scored, we moved the ball quickly, and our drives to goal were strong and successful.”

Most recently, the Bulldogs lost 8-7 to conference foe Penn in their first Ivy League game at the Quakers’ Franklin Field March 19. Midfielder Lauren Taylor ’08 and Sargent scored two early goals off assists from attacker Marya Myers ’07 to give Yale the early lead. Penn evened the score off goals from Chrissy Muller and Allie Juras. The Elis and the Quakers alternated scoring for the remainder of the half, with Alessandra Croffy ’05 and Sargent each adding another goal for the Bulldogs. The game went into halftime with Penn leading 5-4.

Yale again opened the half with two consecutive goals, this time from Taylor and Croffy, to put the Elis ahead. Karen Jann scored for Penn to tie up the game before Taylor tallied her third of the match to put the Elis ahead 7-6 with seven minutes left to play. But the Bulldogs could not hold on, and Penn’s Ali Ryan evened the score once again. With the clock winding down, the Elis committed a foul, and Penn’s Katie Spofford nailed a free-position shot to secure the win for the Quakers with just nine seconds remaining in the game.

Defender Meredith Mack ’05 said after the game that the Elis showed great improvement against Penn, even though they came out with the loss.

“We’ve pointed out things in the recent games that needed work and there were improvements today,” Mack said. “Today our attack was a bit more dynamic than it had been in the last couple of games, and we focused on some things with the defense during practice that you could see today.”

The Elis hope to continue that improvement and put the spring break disappointments behind them this week as they anticipate Wednesday’s matchup against Boston University.

“I think we all are a little disappointed at how the season has started,” Levin said. “It’s not going to be easy to pick ourselves up after these losses, but we have great leadership from our senior class and, as long as we work together as a team, we will start to see a few more marks in the win column.”

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