For a few minutes at the beginning of yesterday afternoon’s affair, it looked like nearly a week of intense practices had not exorcised the demons from Saturday’s women’s lacrosse game thoroughly enough. The shots still refused to fall for the Elis, and Holy Cross (8-4) was doing a pretty uncanny impression of their fellow Bay Stater Crimson by confining the heavily favored Bulldogs to a 1-1 tie through the 20-minute mark.

Ten minutes, six Yale goals and one halftime whistle later, the Crusaders’ little charade was over.

The Bulldogs (6-5, 1-2 Ivy) stood up and refused to be haunted by their upset loss to Harvard for long, getting back on track in a big way by erasing Holy Cross, 12-3, yesterday at Johnson Field. After falling behind 1-0 on an early Patricia Sutton goal, the Yale defense, bolstered by seven saves from goalkeeper Ellen Cameron ’08, put on a defensive clinic for their hapless Patriot League foes in front of the hometown fans.

“It started off pretty close, and when we tried to force it on the attack they held us to 1-1 through at least the first 10, 15 minutes,” midfielder Taylor Fragapane ’09 said. “At that point, we had said we had to step it up, we had said we can’t take games like this lightly anymore. There’s no reason we can’t win, so we picked it up and put it all together.”

When Sutton and her teammates rejoiced over the first Crusader goal of the day at 3:44 in the first, little did they know what a scarce feeling the high-fives and hugs would become by the end of the affair. Holy Cross would not best Cameron for another 31 minutes, and by then Yale was up by six and well on their way to polishing off the rout. The defensive might was historic, since the three-goal total by the visitors was the lowest for a Yale opponent since Columbia fell to the Elis, 18-3, on April 14, 2004.

After Sara Greenberg ’09 got the ball rolling with the game-evening goal 11:07 into regulation, sophomore middies Lauren Taylor ’08 and Kat Peetz ’08 made sure any Crusader illusions of an upset were put to rest with a pair of personal hat tricks before halftime.

Given the lingering thoughts of Saturday’s game, where the notoriously weak Cantabs program took an early lead and stunned the Elis with its first head-to-head win since 1994, the six-goal halftime cushion was much-needed peace of mind.

“It was definitely relieving, even though I knew I really wasn’t worried about coming back,” captain and midfielder Sarah Scalia ’06 said. “By halftime, we were just so in sync with tons of shooting, plus they were pretty rattled by the fact that we got it up to 7-1 right at the end of the first.”

Taylor and Peetz both added another offering in the second, and Lara Melniker ’07 joined the onslaught with a pair of back-to-back unassisted goals about 10 minutes in. When the dust cleared, the Bulldogs hit the locker room with a resounding triumph and a statement to any future Ancient Eight opponent who may count them out of the Ivy race.

As a non-league matchup sandwiched between the two Big Three battles of 2006, Holy Cross proved to be a good warm-up for Saturday’s sojourn down I-95. When the Elis take the field against the Tigers this weekend, the fate of their entire season may hang in the balance.

“Practices have been intense this week,” midfielder Lindsay Levin ’07 said. “I mean, the coaches were pretty positive in helping us move on from the loss. We didn’t need to be told, we knew we all had a bad Harvard game, we knew the mistakes we made. For Princeton, we’re working on getting back on defense in transition a lot, which is what hurt us really bad last weekend.”

Harvard stole the Bulldogs’ starring role as underdog, but a title may still be in the works if Yale can reclaim their role this weekend. And with a team that knocked off No. 13 Dartmouth in frigid Hanover two weeks ago, anything could happen in the Garden State.

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