The women’s lacrosse team finally found itself on the winning end of a nail-biter.

The No. 20 Elis won their first one-goal contest of the season, as they edged No. 14 Cornell, 9-8, Saturday at Johnson Field in their home finale. Midfielder Sarah Driscoll ’05 dominated the attack and captain Kerry Docherty ’05 led the defense as the Bulldogs (9-6, 4-3 Ivy), who had lost all four of their previous games decided by a single goal, rebounded from an early 5-2 deficit to come away with the win.

“It was really great to finally win a game that was decided by one goal, as opposed to the four games that didn’t turn out in our favor,” midfielder Sarah Scalia ’06 said.

The seniors’ mental toughness helped the Elis stay focused, even through a half-hour delay due to inclement weather and several spurts of Big Red scoring.

“[Saturday] was a great win and a great way for the seniors to close their last home game,” Docherty said. “The combination of senior day, delays of game, thunderstorms and torrential downpours only added to our desire to win.”

The victory helped the Elis jump up two slots to third place in the Ivy League, behind No. 4 Dartmouth — which clinched the Ivy League championship after handing No. 3 Princeton its first conference loss in more than two years. With the defeat, the Tigers dropped to second in the league, while the Big Red (6-6, 3-3) fell to fifth after the weekend. The Elis, who have now finished their Ivy season, play their last regular season game Wednesday against the University of Connecticut.

The Elis got on the board first when attacker Lauren Taylor ’08 opened the scoring just two minutes into the contest. But Cornell quickly responded with goals from Courtney Farrell and Julia Hughey to put the Big Red up, 2-1, 4:16 into the half.

Immediately following Cornell’s second goal, the sudden onset of a thunderstorm chased the teams off the field for a half hour.

“It almost helped us when the game got postponed and we were losing 2-1,” Scalia said. “We had a chance to evaluate what we were doing wrong and the things we needed to work on, like draw controls.”

Margaux Viola found the net soon after play resumed to widen Cornell’s lead to two. But then the Yale seniors started to take the game into their own hands when defender Meredith Mack ’05 slipped the ball past Big Red goaltender Maggie Fava at 6:43 into the half. The momentum swung back to Cornell, however, as Viola and Noelle Dowd each scored to give the Big Red a three-goal lead — its largest of the contest.

Midfielder Katie Sargent ’05 halted Cornell’s run with a goal of her own at 17:46, off an assist from midfielder Aly Croffy ’05. Less than a minute later, midfielder Sarah Driscoll ’05 gained control of the ball and hit her first goal of the game at 18:40. The scrappy senior scored two more goals in the next five minutes to put the Elis ahead, 6-5.

“Driscoll’s game was out of control yesterday,” attacker Katie Brownson ’05 said. “She really stepped it up a notch and basically she was just a testament to speed and strength and everything we try to be as a team.”

Play remained deadlocked for over five minutes until Dowd found the back of the net for the Big Red to even the score. Sargent grabbed the last goal of the half for the Bulldogs when she nailed a goal with less than 15 seconds left in the period, giving Yale a one-goal advantage going into the half.

Cornell came out strong from the break, scoring the first two goals of the second half while holding the Elis scoreless for over 10 minutes. With the Big Red up 8-7, the Bulldogs almost fell prey to the demons that have haunted them all season.

But with just under 10 minutes left, Taylor tied the game at 8-8 off a free position shot. As the clock ran down, the Cornell attack put the pressure on Docherty, goaltender Lonnie Sarnell ’06, and the rest of the Eli defense. Sarnell, who had nine saves and three ground balls on Saturday, was in spectacular form, and denied all of Cornell’s scoring opportunities during the waning minutes of the contest.

“Lonnie made some huge saves to prevent their comeback, especially in the last couple of minutes,” Docherty said.

In the final minute of play, the Cornell defense gave up a free position shot to Driscoll, who had been quiet the whole second half. But she made her last shot of the game count, and fired the game-winner past Fava to grab the win for the Elis.

Brownson said the win was especially significant for the seniors on the team.

“It was like a mixture of emotions,” she said. “Being the last game and all and winning in such a close match, it just felt really amazing. We’re such a close-knit group and we’ve been through four years together, going through tough games and trials and tribulations, that actually pulling off that win in such horrible weather was just amazing.”

Docherty attributed the Elis’ ultimate triumph over the Big Red as a direct result of this high level of emotions, and the seniors’ desire to end their careers on a high note.

“We were neck and neck with Cornell the whole game,” she said. “But no one on their team wanted it as badly as we did.”

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