With one little bouncer that somehow found its way between Dartmouth goalie Devon Wills’ legs, the whole frontier has drastically transformed for Yale women’s lacrosse.
Defenseman Jenn Warden ’09 delivered the biggest goal of her young career with 17 ticks left in regulation, and moments later jubilant Elis (4-4, 1-1 Ivy) reveled in a shocking win over a No. 13 Dartmouth (3-3, 0-1) squad that had subdued Yale every year since 2002. The heavily favored defending Ancient Eight champs rallied to tie the Bulldogs late in the second half, but rock solid defense against the Big Green’s notoriously explosive attack threw the game to the visiting Elis and ensured that the Ivy League standings would look surprisingly different come Monday morning.
After a heartbreaking loss to University of Pennsylvania last weekend and a 15-8 steamrolling at the hands of Boston University on Wednesday, the downtrodden Elis still held out some hope that Saturday’s trip to Hanover could be the saving grace of the 3-4 squad. The Bulldogs were still waiting for the moment when all the elements within the team would finally come together to play a solid 60 minutes, and they figured that it had to happen in a game as important as the one with Dartmouth. After all, with an improbable win, Yale would be back in the thick of the Ivy ranks with a 1-1 league record; with a loss, it would be virtually eliminated from the competitive race.
Defenseman Taylor Fragapane ’09 recounted the cautious optimism her team had held before the game.
“I knew we had it in us to make it that close, but I didn’t think it would be so low scoring,” she said. “Dartmouth’s attack is phenomenal, as we found out when we lost to them at our [Feb. 18] scrimmage. They come at you with fast accurate shots, but we countered with such strong defense.”
Captain Sarah Scalia ’06 said that through the intense practices on Thursday and Friday, coach Amanda O’Leary had developed a new strategy that aimed at countering the sloppy first halves that had been the downfall of the squad thus far.
“We had to fix the problem where we would come out and get flustered,” Scalia said. “Coach told us that every possession we get, we should take three or four minutes off the clock. We needed to find the right shot instead of just shooting on our first opportunity, and I think this approach allowed us to get more comfortable.”
Yale fell behind 1-0 seven minutes into regulation, but midfielder Lara Melniker ’07 pulled the Elis even with a shot less than a minute later. Dartmouth jetted ahead again midway through the first with a pair of goals, but goals by Warden and attack Carli Vogler ’06 sent the teams to the locker room knotted at three.
Midfielder Kat Peetz ’08 led the Eli charge with two quick goals after the break, but Dartmouth’s Jen Pittman countered with two of her own to tie the score at five with 6:33 to play.
Eli goalkeeper Ellen Cameron ’08, capping off a spectacular day in which she held a Dartmouth team that had averaged 13 goals a game to only five, stopped a Kristen Zimmer shot with two minutes left on the clock to set up the game-winning drive. The offense set up, and the minute-and-a-half campaign ended in triumph when Warden accepted a Melniker pass and slipped it between goalkeeper Wills’ legs.
“We had ball with 45 seconds, and in that situation, we always try to get the last shot,” Warden said. “They were pushing up to Lara Melniker, so I cut up, turned, and saw that Devin [Wills] was playing out, so I put the ball between her legs.”
Scalia forced a turnover after Dartmouth nabbed the last draw control, and the upset was complete.
Penn, who dealt the Elis their lone league loss, was taken down by Cornell over the weekend, putting control back into the Bulldogs’ hands. In the seven-game Ancient Eight season, a single game can make or break a campaign, and now, a team that seemed to slog through its first few weeks of non-league play is right in the thick of contenders.
“I think this will be the turning point for us,” Fragapane said. “We knew we had the talent to do it, but we never really pulled it together. We are going to work harder to keep this going and gain confidence. Our problems stemmed from confidence, as coming off the losses it was hard to keep focused, but the Dartmouth game can change all that.”