The Yale women’s lacrosse team’s path to the Ivy League tournament became considerably more complicated following a 15–14 loss to Columbia last Saturday. Now, its three remaining regular season contests are must-win games if the squad wants to keep any hopes of postseason play alive.
This laborious undertaking begins Saturday with a date against No. 7 Princeton, a team the Elis last vanquished in 2007. The Tigers (9–2, 3–0 Ivy) are tied with No. 8 Cornell for first place in the Ivy League, and are the only team aside from the Big Red that remains undefeated in conference play. Princeton, the reigning co-conference champion, is the fifth nationally ranked team that the Bulldogs (7–6, 1–3) will face this season, providing yet another challenge for a Yale team looking to bounce back from a close loss to Columbia last weekend.
“In order for our team to be successful against Princeton, we need to approach Saturday with confidence,” attacker Hope Hanley ’17 said. “Our coaches have given us a great game plan, and if we follow that for a full 60 minutes, I am confident that we can be successful against the Tigers.”
Any loss from here on eliminates Yale from qualifying for the Ivy League tournament, which takes the top four teams in the final conference standings. The Bulldogs sit in sixth place behind the Lions, and with the top half of the Ancient Eight each having suffered just one or zero losses, a fourth Yale defeat would prove cataclysmic.
Should the Bulldogs find a way to emerge victorious over the Orange and Black, however, their postseason hopes would remain extant. Since 2008, nine of the 10 teams that finished the regular season with exactly three conference losses qualified for the Ivy League Tournament, with the lone exception being the 2012 Princeton squad. still, Yale’s final two games come against cellar-dwellar Dartmouth and fourth-place Penn, so a win on Saturday would put the Bulldogs in a suitable position to assemble a postseason run.
The Tigers are coming into the matchup on the heels of a loss to No. 1 Maryland, just their second defeat of the season after falling to No. 6 Penn State on March 21. While Princeton has also beaten two ranked teams in No. 11 Syracuse and No. 12 Notre Dame, the Elis have suffered losses by at least seven goals to each of the three currently ranked teams they have faced: No. 4 Stony Brook, No. 15 Boston College and No. 8 Cornell.
The Tigers boast a strong all-around game, with standouts both on offense and on defense. Goaltender Ellie DeGarmo leads the country with 12.45 saves per game, and her 0.576 save percentage is the best mark in the Ancient Eight. The senior’s contributions in net have anchored the Princeton defense, which ranks 17th in all of NCAA Division I.
On the scoring side, midfielder Olivia Hompe has fueled the Princeton attack with 3.82 goals per game and has earned Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week honors twice in the last fortnight. Freshman midfielder Tess d’Orsi, sister of Yale men’s hockey forward Will d’Orsi ’20, ranks second on the Tiger roster in team scoring with 29 goals and 36 points. The balance of offensive and defensive play has established Princeton as the ninth-best team in the nation in scoring margin — on average, the Tigers have outscored their opponents by nearly six goals per game.
“Princeton is a very talented and athletic team,” midfielder Amanda Bosland ’19 said. “In order to get the result we want this weekend we will need every player on the same page and on the top of their game.”
While the Tigers are a force to be reckoned with on both ends of the field, Yale also has demonstrated its fine scoring touch. Hanley, who leads the team with 69 points, and captain Tess McEvoy ’17, who tops the team with 36 goals, have paced a balanced Bulldog attack all season. Yale’s squad features five members who have scored at least 20 goals this season, compared to just two such scorers on Princeton’s lineup.
The Bulldogs also have an edge off the draw, with a 14.62 draws-per-game average — 19th in the country. Last weekend’s loss to Columbia marked a rare occasion when the Elis’ opponents were more successful off the draw, and returning back to Yale’s usual form will be key against a Princeton team that posts an average mark in that category.
Last season at the Class of 1952 Stadium in Princeton, the Tigers jumped out to an early 6–0 lead and never looked back in a 16–5 triumph. Although the Bulldogs eventually pulled withhin five, an additional 6–0 Tiger scoring run doomed any chances of a Yale victory in a game in which Princeton ripped off a total of 50 shots and went a perfect 22–22 on clears.
“Our team is going into this game focused on our own game plan and mental preparation,” defender Anna Thorndike ’20 said. “We have learned through a variety of experiences this season that regardless of standing or reputation, any team can win on any given day. We are capable and ready to bring everything we need out onto the field to come out of this weekend with a win.”
The Bulldogs host Princeton for a 3:30 p.m. start on Saturday at Reese Stadium.