The calendar said April, the weather felt like May, but the women’s lacrosse team came out of the locker room to face Columbia looking like it was stuck in March.
On the immediate heels of a draining battle in torrential Princeton downpours Saturday afternoon, the road-weary Bulldogs (7-6, 2-3 Ivy) might have been expected to snap back into their early season habit of slow starts at Johnson Field on Wednesday. But this time around, the Elis came storming back to send the basement-dwelling Lions (5-7, 0-6) packing back down the Merritt Parkway.
After falling behind a speedy Columbia underdog early in the first half, it took more than a few ticks before Lauren Taylor ’08 and company channeled their midseason form and put the Lions at bay. A six-goal Yale spurt midway through the second half finally put the home team on top for good and would make the difference en route to the 12-9 final.
“We came out really flat, and it says a lot about our team that we were able to come back,” Yale head coach Amanda O’Leary said. “Still, we can’t afford to do that anymore. We expected a strong Columbia. They’re a good team that has had ups and downs just like us, but coming off a very close loss, I guess it was tough for us to get started.”
Summer was in the air as the seventh-place Elis and last-place Tigers took the field Wednesday afternoon, but the bucolic mood came to a crashing halt 30 seconds into the game when Lion Holly Glynn beat goalie Ellen Cameron ’08.
Two more Columbia goals came over the next six minutes, and the Bulldogs soon glared at a 3-0 deficit against a squad that had been outscored nearly three to one in its first five league matchups. Yale quickly realized that an opponent’s last-place ranking in the volatile Ancient Eight ranks did not mean automatic victory.
“We knew that they were good, but we didn’t want to acknowledge it going into the game,” captain Sarah Scalia ’06 said. “We came out a little flat on our feet, and our attack was just really slow in the beginning.”
Like so many times this year, Ivy League scoring leader Taylor finally got the Bulldogs on the board. She deposited her 36th goal of the year on a free position shot nearly nine minutes in, and a Jenn Warden ’09 offering sandwiched by Taylor’s number 37 and number 38 over the next nine minutes gave the Elis the lead at 4-3.
But the denizens of Morningside Heights were just as restless, and came back with a three-goal onslaught of their own that retook the lead and jacked it up to 6-4. Despite another Warden goal — which arrived with mere seconds left in the half — the Bulldogs hit the clubhouse trailing at the break for only the second time in league play this year.
Goalie Lonnie Sarnell ’06 replaced Cameron between the posts with less than five minutes to go in the first. Cameron, who has been a standout in her first season as starting goalkeeper, was uncharacteristically shaky, and the veteran presence of Sarnell would loom large late in the second half.
Yale only got one of the first three goals as the second half kicked off, but the next nine minutes saw some of the most prolific scoring of the season and made the 8-6 deficit seem like ancient history.
Five different players — midfielders Kat Peetz ’08, Lara Melniker ’07, Taylor and Sarah Greenberg ’09 and attack Marya Myers ’07 — stepped up and, bolstered by three impressive saves by Sarnell, led the Elis to an insurmountable advantage by the 10-minute mark. Fragapane and Lion Elyse Pultz exchanged scores in the last seconds, and when the final whistle blew, the Bulldogs had nailed down their seventh win of the season.
With the loss against Princeton last weekend, Yale is officially eliminated from the Ancient Eight race, but the distant hope of an at-large NCAA bid still looms as the Bulldogs set off on an eight-day, three-game homestand.
The Elis will face the Golden Bears of California Sunday afternoon, a team they dismembered last April.