A slew of Elis foretold a roughshod, back-and-forth battle this holiday weekend, and an afternoon slugfest made the perfect appetizer for many a Bulldog’s Easter dinner. Cal stormed into the Nutmeg State with two years worth of resentment and a vivacious slew of yellow-clad parents in tow, but the hometown women’s lacrosse squad still prevailed yesterday in a matchup where the antics in the stands often matched the intensity on the field.
The Bulldogs (8-6, 2-3 Ivy) jumped out early against the Golden Bears of Berkeley (5-8) on a sun-drenched Johnson Field, then managed to quash a second-half Cal onslaught and hold course for an 11-8 victory. All the while, the focal point of the afternoon affair shifted from the squad’s oldest members to one of its youngest, as the 175 fans in attendance kicked off the day by saluting Yale’s seniors and ended it in awe of a dazzling breakout performance from a freshman middie.
Fresh in the minds of both teams was the 14-4 walloping Yale handed to Cal last April in Berkeley, and the Senior Day matchup had all the makings of a grudge match beforehand.
“Cal is a really young team,” midfielder Lauren Taylor ’08 said. “I’m sure when they played today, they hadn’t forgotten at all about last year.”
The Bulldogs’ faithful showed up in full force to honor the four members of the Class of 2006 in a pregame ceremony. Goalkeeper Lonnie Sarnell ’06, midfielder and captain Sarah Scalia ’06 and attacks Caroline Edsall ’06 and Carli Vogler ’06 trotted to midfield prior to the first half, the last remaining members of the 2003 Ivy Championship team who will graduate in five weeks.
“It’s a great legacy for our seniors to go out for a win against a Pac 10 team, especially who had beaten Stanford earlier,” Yale head coach Amanda O’Leary said. “It was a wonderful win for both the seniors and for the Yale team.”
But the veterans were not about to close the book on their careers in New Haven just yet.
Just minutes later, Vogler maneuvered into place for a free position shot but instead slung the ball to midfielder Sara Greenberg ’09, who deposited the Elis’ first goal of the afternoon in Cal’s net and knotted the early tally at one. The senior’s 15th point of the 2006 campaign on the assist would be the spark that ignited the breakthrough performance for the rookie’s season.
Greenberg was already en route to wrapping up a rather impressive inaugural year in Eli blue with 11 goals and three assists in seven starts, but something special was apparent pretty early yesterday — especially when the rookie obliterated her previous game-high three goals with five minutes left to go in the first half.
“Sara Greenberg single-handedly kept us in this one from the start,” O’Leary said. “We knew all along she had it in her, from in the preseason when she scored seven goals in a game.”
Greenberg, with four goals before the break, teamed up with some other memorable efforts from her Eli teammates to take a 7-3 advantage into halftime. Midfielder Lara Melniker ’07 came out on top in a tricky footwork battle against a Cal defender to give Yale its second goal of the game, then middie Jenn Warden ’09, with her 14th goal of the season, and Taylor, with her league-leading 40th, rounded out the Bulldogs’ first half scoring.
The dynamic pair of Greenberg and Melniker hardly lost their momentum heading into the final half. Both scored within 40 seconds of each other right out of the gate to give Yale a rather cozy six-goal lead.
Greenberg, who scored once more to bring her whopping total on the day to six, described her unprecedented dynamism as a welcomed side effect of the holiday season.
“The team said it was all the matzo I’ve been eating,” she said. “But it’s also the midfield connecting on their passes and a great opponent bringing out the best in us.”
After the two early goals made the score 9-3, Cal went on a 4-1 run that drew both the ire and praise of a raucous divided crowd.
The parking lot was brimming with SUVs with New York and New Jersey plates alongside Berkeley bumper stickers, and this surprisingly loud troop of Golden Bear parents made its presence known as its squad chipped away at the Yale advantage. On the other side of the scoring booth, a heretofore reserved Eli nation was getting vocally agitated with the refereeing. This, coupled with the Cal frenzy created by banging lacrosse sticks on the hollow metal benches, added to the feeling that Yale was quickly relinquishing the momentum in the game.
But Greenberg came along and saved the day once more. She took a draw control off an Eli time out, and once again stymied the Cal defense and raced for her sixth and final goal of the afternoon with 10:53 to play, bringing the tally to 10-7.
The last 10 minutes of the game were the most heated. Contact was frequent, sticks were broken, and both sides of the stands erupted at 5:46 when an open-field collision between Warden and Bear Laura Cavallo left Cavallo wiped out on the field for several minutes. But O’Leary said the bad blood between the two squads was largely a creation of the crowd.
“This was definitely a heated game, but I thought it was a great game,” O’Leary said. “The two teams played very, very hard, so there was a lot of contact, and perhaps that made people get the wrong view of things.”
The Bulldogs outraced the Bears and maintained long possessions in the closing minutes to run out the clock and were able to hang on for the 11-8 victory.
The win seemed just as satisfying as any as the pack of fans descended onto the sidelines after the game. The team is assured at least a .500 season, and Taylor said it was the perfect way to launch the final week of the year.
“It was comfortable, but an exciting comfortable,” she said. “It’s a good game to play before we take on Brown and Cornell. I’d much prefer to take on a tough program like Cal rather than, say, a Fairfield right now, and all in all, a good Easter win.”