Fighting for its postseason life, the Yale women’s lacrosse team’s contest against No. 14 Penn on Saturday seemed destined to be a blowout after the Quakers jumped out to a 5–0 lead less than eight minutes into the game. Yet the Bulldogs staged a furious comeback effort in front of the home crowd at Reese Stadium, ultimately falling just one goal short of a noteworthy upset victory.
Penn (11–3, 5–1 Ivy) outlasted Yale (5–9, 2–4) 9–8, extending the Elis’ season-long losing streak to five games, behind the dynamic play-making ability of Nina Corcoran and the surgical finishing of Alex Condon. With the defeat, Yale sits one game behind Harvard for fourth place in the Ivy League — the top four teams advance to the Ivy League Tournament — with the two schools scheduled to face off this weekend in the regular season finale.
“I am proud of how our team executed and competed [Saturday],” head coach Erica LaGrow said. “Penn is a talented team and got an early lead on us that we couldn’t overcome.”
The game’s first eight minutes belonged entirely to the Quakers, whose pinpoint shooting led to five goals on their first six shots. Condon scored two of those first five, and Corcoran assisted on two as well during the momentous stretch.
At that point, any chances of an upset bid seemed improbable but the Bulldogs clamped down defensively, not allowing a goal for the final 22:58 of the half.
“Defensively we executed well as a unit. Each player competed hard and did their job individually to limit Penn’s prolific offense,” LaGrow said. “The outcome was not what we wanted but we are very happy with how the team played and competed as a whole.”
While Yale’s defense stifled the Quakers, the Bulldog offense struck twice during the first period. The first goal came on a free position shot from midfielder Lily Smith ’18 and the second was an unassisted tally from attacker Tess McEvoy ’17.
Despite not scoring another goal before halftime, Yale controlled the remaining 14:45 of the half, preventing Penn from taking a single shot and taking five more of its own.
The score at the end of the half was 5–2 in favor of Penn, but the teams’ shot totals painted a different picture; Yale launched 11 shots while Penn only released seven.
“We were down 5–0 and we came together and said ‘Enough is enough.’ We completely bought into the system and the game plan and trusted each other to do our jobs,” defender Victoria Moore ’17 said. “We knew we could play better and once we reset, we came out on a completely different note.”
Penn was the first to strike in the second half, with its dynamic duo returning to form with Condon netting another goal off of another Corcoran assist.
But Yale again answered in force, scoring four unanswered goals to draw even at six-apiece. Midfielder Katie Smith ’18 — the second Smith twin to leave her mark on the game — scored back-to-back unassisted goals. Attacker Hope Hanley ’17 then contributed the third goal of the run, before Katie Smith completed a hat trick to equalize the score.
The Smith twins, who were originally recruited to play field hockey at Yale, decided to become dual-sport athletes and joined the lacrosse team earlier this year. Together, the twins delivered half of Yale’s goals on Saturday afternoon.
“Katie stepped up in a big way this game,” said captain and defender Kate Walker ’16. “She and her sister Lily are finding a lot of success for us this season by utilizing their speed and quickness. I also think they both bring an unconventional style to the game, which is arguably a result of their experience as field hockey players. They shoot from down low and around their defenders, which is a shot goalies don’t often see.”
But overcoming a five-goal deficit entirely proved too tall a task as the Elis failed to capture their first lead of the game. Instead, Penn retaliated with three unanswered goals. The electric combination of Corcoran and Condon produced the go-ahead goal to give the Quakers a 7–6 lead. Corcoran again assisted on the score, notching her 47th of the season, a figure more than double that of the second-ranked assister in the Ivy League, Emily Tripodi of Cornell.
With 7:40 left to play, and facing a 9–6 hole, the Bulldogs mounted one final comeback attempt.
Attacker Madeleine Gramigna ’18 cut the deficit to two with a goal on a free position shot with 6:53 left to play.
The scoring stalled for more than six minutes thereafter, with neither team even able to attempt a shot during the scoring drought. But attacker Emily Granger ’18 found the back of the net with 46 seconds left to score her first goal of the game, and eighth of the season, to keep Yale’s hopes alive.
But the Elis failed to produce one last goal in those final seconds as a costly Yale turnover with 31 seconds to play allowed Penn to run out the clock.
Condon’s four goals, and Corcoran’s five assists, were just enough to hold off Yale, despite Penn taking seven fewer shots, winning one fewer draw control and scooping three fewer ground balls than the Bulldogs.
The Elis play their final game of the regular season, one with substantial postseason implications, against the Crimson next Saturday at 1 p.m.