Prior to Saturday, the women’s lacrosse team had developed a discouraging pattern in its Ivy League games — jumping out to an early lead only to be quickly overtaken by opponents and eventually losing the contest.

But this past weekend, the Elis broke out of the mold as they routed arch-rival Harvard 16-9 in Cambridge, Mass. in the Crimson’s Ivy League opener. The victory was the first conference victory for the Bulldogs (4-4, 1-2 Ivy) and with the win, the Elis have recovered from an early season let-down to get back to a .500 overall record.

The beginning of Saturday’s game called to mind Yale’s first two conference games — losses to Penn and Dartmouth. The Elis took the early lead — this time a 3-0 advantage off of two goals from attacker Lauren Taylor ’08 and one from midfielder Katie Sargent ’05. Then Harvard started its comeback drive and the Crimson’s Casey Owens hit three free-position goals in a four-minute span to even up the score midway through the first period.

“[The defense] is so strong in terms of communication and team play, but they’re going to give up a couple penalties here and there,” Taylor said. “But, they’re so solid that it doesn’t really affect the tone of the game.”

If Saturday’s game followed the same pattern as the Elis’ matchups against the Quakers and the Big Green, the early lead and the subsequent run by Harvard (2-5, 0-1) would have spelled doom for the Bulldogs, who forfeited one and two-goal leads respectively to Dartmouth and Penn. But Saturday, the Elis refused to let the Cantabs get ahead. After Owens’ hat trick, Sargent and midfielder Sarah Driscoll ’05 each snuck the ball past Cantab goaltender Kristin Demorest to regain the lead for Yale.

“We have gotten in the habit this season of starting the game on fire with three or so quick goals and then letting the opposing team slowly even out the score,” midfielder Lindsay Levin ’07 said. “It’s always a little unsettling to see the other team gaining momentum, but I was confident we would find our flow again.”

Harvard’s Liz Gamble scored the Crimson’s last goal of the half, while midfielder Aly Croffy ’05 and Taylor closed out the Elis’ first-period scoring to put the Elis ahead 7-4 going into the break.

“The first half, we had some trouble defensively,” captain Kerry Docherty ’05 said. “But the attack really took it into their hands to keep the lead and expand on it.”

Sargent opened the second-half scoring with her third goal less than a minute into play to give the Bulldogs a four-goal advantage. Harvard’s Elaine Belitsos retaliated with two goals to cut the Elis’ lead in half.

But with 24:03 left in the period, Taylor kicked off a five-goal streak which put the game out of Harvard’s reach for good. Croffy and attacker Lara Melniker ’07 each had two goals in the run.

“The Harvard [defense] could just not contain our offense,” Levin said. “Aly Croffy had a really great game, and her crease rolls through multiple defenders were sick. It was also awe-inspiring to watch Lauren Taylor drive from the top of key and score even when four defenders dropped to cover her.”

Harvard’s Natalie Curtis stopped the Bulldogs’ charge with 10 minutes left to play, but her goal was too late to help the Crimson’s cause. Levin scored her first goal of the season, and Driscoll and Croffy added their last goals of the afternoon to put the Elis up 16-7 heading into the last five minutes. Harvard found the net twice more, but the Elis were too far ahead to be caught.

The Eli midfielders were essential contributors to the Bulldogs’ offensive success this weekend, combining for six of Yale’s 16 goals and adding three assists. Midfielder Sarah Scalia ’06 pitched in three drawn charges and a caused turnover to the Eli efforts.

“Sarah Scalia had her best game all season,” Docherty said. “She had some draw controls, some great checks in the midfield, and some great defensive slides.”

In addition to the Bulldogs’ prolific scoring against the Cantabs, the Eli defense made a critical contribution to the win. Yale caused 12 turnovers, four more than their season average, and defender Kira Licata ’05 and Driscoll forced three Harvard turnovers. The Elis split the goaltending duties between Lonnie Sarnell ’06, who had four saves in her 20 minutes in net, and Ellen Cameron ’08, who had eight saves in 40 minutes.

“Our goalies were incredible and made a lot of great saves,” Taylor said. “I thought [the defense] did a great job of getting the ball out of the backfield. Overall, it was a pretty strong showing all around.”

The Bulldogs will look to carry the momentum from Saturday’s game into Wednesday’s matchup against the University of New Hampshire and next weekend’s contest against conference powerhouse Princeton.

“It was nice to get our first Ivy League win before playing UNH and Princeton this week,” Docherty said.

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