Opponents be warned: The women’s lacrosse team is back and hungrier than ever.
In a game in which the lead changed as often as the weather, the No. 13 Bulldogs (2-0, 0-0 Ivy) rallied from behind twice to pull off a 10-9 upset against a talented No. 12 James Madison University (0-2) squad Saturday. On the heels of a closer-than-expected season opener against Fairfield, the victory proved that the Elis still have the talent that carried them to a second-place finish in the Ivy League last season and a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
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“After our mediocre performance on Wednesday against Fairfield, our team definitely went into Saturday’s game with a strong desire to prove ourselves and play up to our own level and potential,” captain Kat Peetz ’08 explained. “I think that the fact that we were down by three at two different points in the game and managed to come back and win is definitely a testament to our team’s heart and refusal to give up.”
Early in the first half, however, the Bulldogs’ outlook seemed as bleak as the forecast, as JMU racked up a 3-0 lead in the first three minutes of the game. With the Dukes playing tight defense on All-American Lauren Taylor ’08 — who led the nation in scoring and had four of the Bulldogs’ nine goals in a 13-9 loss to JMU last year — the Elis struggled to get off shots while the visitors continued to win draw controls and apply pressure on the Yale defense.
Midfielder Jenn Warden ’09 was the first to put the Bulldogs on the board, in the fifth minute of the game, notching an unassisted goal to make it 3-1. Following Warden’s score, the two teams exchanged blows for much of the rest of the half. Jenna Block ’10, Meredith Callahan ’08 and Linden Ellis ’09 tallied for the Bulldogs, and JMU added four more of their own, claiming a 7-4 lead with 10:22 left in the first period.
But the Elis were not to be deterred. Warden again provided the spark that reawakened the Yale offense, scoring back-to-back goals in the last six minutes of the half to narrow the gap to one. Building off the momentum from Warden’s second tally, the Elis applied renewed pressure, and attacker Jess Sturgill ’10 found an opening with 21 seconds left to knot the score at 7-7 going into halftime.
The Dukes charged out of the gate after the break, sneaking past goalie Ellen Cameron ’08 in the first 18 seconds to put the Elis behind, 8-7. But the Bulldogs responded with a vengeance, claiming their first lead of the game with 22 minutes remaining thanks to Callahan and Warden goals. JMU managed to knot the score at 9-9 two minutes later, but it was clear that their endurance was fading as the well-conditioned Elis continued to battle for ground balls and force turnovers.
As the minutes wore on, the Bulldogs looked for openings but could not break the deadlock until Peetz found success with 8:09 left. Just moments after a Bulldog goal that did not count because of a defensive penalty on JMU, Callahan found an open Peetz heading to the goal. The Yale captain buried the ball in the back of the net, eliciting a warming cheer from the chilly fans in the bleachers.
For the next eight minutes, the Bulldog defenders had their work cut out for them trying to contain the increasingly desperate JMU attack. Cameron’s save in the final seconds gave the game a dramatic finish, and the Bulldogs held on to a one-goal lead to win their second straight.
“Ellen Cameron in goal came up with some huge saves, including one that sealed the game for us in the final seconds,” head coach Laura Field wrote in an e-mail. “Her play in the early minutes of the game sparked the energy in our offense that saw six different people score [and] included multiple underclassmen, which is a diversity that we need to have in order to win.”
Veterans Warden and Callahan led the Elis in scoring Saturday, with four and five points apiece. The Dukes did manage to hold Taylor pointless — ending a 26-game streak that extended back to her sophomore year — but in doing so created opportunities for other members of the Bulldog offense to get into the scoring action.
“It needs to be said that the presence of Lauren Taylor … was some of the most valuable offensive work on the field,” Field wrote. “She drew two and three defenders and was able to free up her teammates who were able to put the ball in the net.”
The Bulldogs’ undefeated record will next be tested Wednesday, when they face off against New Hampshire at Johnson Field.
“New Hampshire has always been a really solid team,” Callahan said. “It’s never an easy game for us. We’re going to have to stay focused and not rest on our laurels from Saturday. We’re definitely a team to beat this year and they’re going to be looking to come after us.”