Two weeks ago, Yale women’s lacrosse somehow found a way to topple defending Ivy champion Dartmouth — winners of all but two Ancient Eight rings since 1994 — for the first time since 2002 and only the fourth time in the last 22 years. But a week later, the Bulldogs switched costumes and played the tragic character, as lowly Harvard erased 11 straight seasons of losing and soundly cut down Yale in the Bulldogs’ own backyard last weekend.
Now, to keep a pulse in the chaotic Ivy League race, the Elis will have to snap another drought this weekend.
The looming prospect of April 8, that oft-mentioned date, regarded from the first day of training as the potential breaking point of the season, has all but arrived. Tomorrow, the Bulldogs head to No. 8 Princeton (4-4. 2-0 Ivy) in search of their first win against the Tigers since 2003 and their first by the shores of Lake Carnegie since well back into the 1990s. And with two league losses already to its name, Yale (6-5, 1-2) goes in with the extra pressure of knowing number three is a near-certain death sentence.
“We always have trouble with Princeton, it’s almost like a mental block against them,” captain Sarah Scalia ’06 said. “This year, we’ve tried not to build them up to be the greatest team ever, because this year they’ve proved to be fallible.”
Princeton, which has nabbed at least a share of four of the last five Ivy titles, has not exactly lived up to its titanic billing in 2006. The Tigers, ranked as high as No. 3 nationally last year, were humiliated at the hands of No. 5 Virginia in a 16-3 final two weeks ago, then needed to hang on to knock off unranked Temple 10-9 Tuesday night.
But Princeton is still Princeton.
The intimidation factor will always be high, and the Bulldogs know they have to step it up or start planning for 2007. Midfielder Lindsay Levin ’07 said despite the mounting anxieties, the mood in the locker room remains positive.
“Sure we know we’ve struggled in the past, but this year is different because we already have a big upset under our belts,” she said. “When we talk about it, the attitude is that it’s going to be a good day if we just look for the upset, we look for the next Dartmouth game.”
The Dartmouth game has been the highlight of an up-and-down year so far for the Elis, and they are working hard this week to regain the edge on defense that made them so impenetrable against the Big Green two weeks ago. Defensive transitions, a bulwark of the Dartmouth effort but a disaster against the Crimson, have been at the forefront of practices this week as the team readies to board the bus this afternoon.
“The two practices before the Dartmouth game were really key in that win,” midfielder Taylor Fragapane ’09 said. “We’re doing what we can to recreate that motivation and positive atmosphere.”
The Bulldogs will need more defensive brilliance this weekend since the Tigers’ forte is offense. Rookie Holly McGarvie has emerged as a core part of the Princeton onslaught, and nabbed Ivy Offensive Player of the Week honors for her efforts in her first Ivy outings ever. The freshman scored four goals in Princeton’s 16-7 rout of Columbia last Wednesday, then added another pair of goals, plus a team-high five draw controls and six ground balls in last weekend’s 10-6 triumph over Cornell. McGarvie is currently third on the team with nine goals, just one behind last year’s Rookie of the Year, midfielder Katie Lewis-Lamonica.
Only two weeks remain until the bus heads for Ithaca to round out the 2006 regular season. With a loss tomorrow, it will be just another cramped eight-hour drive to upstate New York. But beat Princeton, and the Cornell game could present the Elis with a chance to win their first outright Ivy championship ever.
“The Ivy League is up for grabs, it’s a lot more unstable than in the past,” Levin said. “Cornell couldn’t beat Princeton, Dartmouth couldn’t beat us. If we take Princeton like we took Dartmouth, we’re staying in this race.”