The women’s lacrosse team was long overdue for an afternoon like Wednesday’s.

The Elis (5-4, 1-1 Ivy) spent almost all of March bouncing around the country in front of hostile crowds, but all that could be heard yesterday at Johnson Field were subdued claps from a smattering of parents, broken by a friendly holler here and there. After a pair of frigid receptions at No. 12 Boston University and No. 13 Dartmouth last week, yesterday the home team played in weather more suited to May than March. And, as perhaps the largest relief, a Bulldog squad dogged by slow starts thus far in 2006 broke out early and never stopped unloading on their hapless visitors.

Yale took a whopping 45 shots on its rivals from a few exits down the I-95, pummeling Fairfield (4-4), 19-11, in what was by far its biggest offensive showing of the season. As an ideal pit stop between the Elis’ thriller at Dartmouth last weekend and an upcoming bout with Harvard this Saturday, yesterday’s meeting proved to be both a solid exercise for starters and an opportunity for bench players to see their first substantial action of the season.

“Every home game is a beneficial opportunity for us, and it’s only that much more important as preparation for Harvard,” Yale head coach Amanda O’Leary said. “Everyone got to play today, and it’s a great chance for the team to learn plays and see the field.”

There was undoubtedly some fire left over from the Elis’ 6-5 triumph over the Big Green Saturday, which in a swoop catapulted the team from being the widely-considered 2006 afterthought to the forefront of the Ancient Eight chase. But scoring leader Lauren Taylor ’08 said it is not all that easy to get up for a game against a non-league opponent, especially one sandwiched between last weekend’s battle with the defending Ivy Champions and this weekend’s against the rival of all rivals.

“To be honest, games like these can be tough,” she said. “If you’re not careful, you can lose focus without all the motivation that goes into a game like Dartmouth. I’m just so glad we came out the way we did.”

The Bulldogs were quick to bury the Stags early in the first half, barraging their fellow Nutmeg Staters with 22 shots before the intermission. Taylor got the action started with an unassisted tally three and a half minutes after the whistle, and after 20 minutes had passed, the Elis had racked up seven goals from seven different scorers. Goalie Ellen Cameron ’08, named Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week after her bulletproof performance in Hanover last weekend, stopped six shots, and was pulled in favor of Lonnie Sarnell ’06 at halftime with the Elis up 10-4.

Starters stuck around for much of the first half, and defenseman Lindsay Levin ’07 said thoughts of Harvard crept onto Johnson Field as the Bulldogs experimented with new plays against the Stags.

“We tried not to overlook Fairfield, but of course Harvard was on our mind,” she said. “We were trying some new things as preparation; in the defense we were working on pressuring the ball up, so it was really a great practice for us.”

The youth movement would have to wait until five minutes into the second half, only after the home squad piled on another four goals, one from Taylor, one from Jenn Warden ’09, and two of Carli Vogler’s ’06 team-leading five goals of the afternoon.

Fortified with a 10-goal lead, new faces took the field, and the momentum briefly swung Fairfield’s way. The Stags went on a 5-1 run to bring the score to 15-9, riling up a sparse, graying yet enthusiastic Fairfield fan base stationed behind the visitors bench.

“We probably shouldn’t have allowed 11 goals today,” Taylor said. “But there wasn’t that much experience out there, and the mistakes happen to all of us at the beginning. But with the number of shots we got to take, it was like target practice today.”

Yale accounted for four of the last six goals of the afternoon, and 19 goals were more than enough to pass as a rout. Coming off a 6-5 final in the Elis’ previous match, and only having scored in double digits twice in eight games, O’Leary was still not surprised by her team’s potency.

“Nowadays, 19 goals is hardly that big at all, and it’s not out of the ordinary to see finals in the 20s and 30s,” she said. “I’m just as impressed that Fairfield was able to capitalize on as many of our mistakes and get up to 11.”

With the unseasonable warmth and none other than the Crimson visiting on Saturday afternoon, the Elis expect the turnout to be strong and the mood to be tense the next time they take the turf at Johnson Field. A second round of “target practice” wouldn’t be so bad either.