In most sports, the Ivy League is considered as an afterthought. Teams usually have to win the conference’s automatic slot to earn even a berth in the NCAA tournament and a chance to compete for postseason glory. But in women’s lacrosse, the Ancient Eight has proved a force to be reckoned with.
Now, as the Ivy League enters the season with No. 13 Princeton, No. 14 Penn and No. 17 Cornell all ranked in the Inside Lacrosse Poll, the Yale women’s lacrosse team will look to assert itself in one of the deepest leagues in Division I as the Bulldogs seek to improve once again on their win total from a season before.
“This team looks the best it’s been at this stage of the season in my four years here,” attacker Kiwi Comizio ’18 said. “Everyone has worked so hard this year and you can see it in all the improvements we’ve made, which I think will bring us further this year than in previous years. We are going to take it game by game, though, and make sure we execute this season.”
Coming off a 7–9 overall record, but an underwhelming 1–6 mark in conference play last season, the Bulldogs hope to finish in the top half of the Ancient Eight for the first time since 2008 in order to qualify for the four-team Ivy League Tournament. A postseason bid, even within the conference, would be a tangible sign of progress for a Yale program looking to re-establish itself as a perennial Ivy League contender under the guidance of head coach Erica LaGrow, now in her third season at the helm.
To improve on last year’s mark, the Bulldogs will need to replace six graduated players, including a trio of All-Ivy selections highlighted by attacker Hope Hanley ’17, who set the Yale single-season record for assists in her final year with the Elis. The return of Comizio, whose .600 shooting percentage led the Ivy League in 2017, will certainly give Yale an added boost on offense after she missed the end of last season with a torn ACL.
Yale will also turn to attacker Izzy Nixon ’19 to continue to establish dominance in the faceoff circle — the junior was second in the Ancient Eight with 87 draw controls last season and also finished third on the team in points.
“We are really excited about this upcoming season,” midfielder and captain Madeleine Gramigna ’18 said. “We have improved tremendously every single year since Erica became our coach, and I believe that the improvement has continued through this fall and preseason. Our team goal is to make it to — and win — the Ivy League tournament.”
But picking up victories in conference play may be easier said than done for the Yale women’s lacrosse team, whose seven Ivy League matchups include three games against ranked teams. In addition to a difficult Ivy slate, the Bulldogs will also embark on a loaded nonconference schedule that features five games against teams that qualified for the 2017 Division I Women’s Lacrosse Tournament.
While the Bulldogs will look to the younger members of the team to provide depth on attack, the Elis will have a strong veteran presence in midfield. Every midfielder from last season returns, including Gramigna and Emily Granger ’18, who have 78 career games between them and who started in 16 and 12 of last season’s games, respectively.
Defensively, the Bulldogs will also need their new contributors to step up, given that they graduated four starters. While Cooper Hall ’18, who was one of the team’s most reliable defenders last season, will continue to lead the way, other seniors will step into new roles this season. Emma Dunne ’18, who was an attacker last season, and Taryn Gallagher ’18, who played six games as a midfielder before being sidelined by an injury, will play on defense for the first time this year.
Meanwhile, defenders Margaret Stover ’20, Hannah Burgess ’20 and Julia Watt ’20 will likely be called upon to play a much bigger role. The trio of second-year players appeared in 10, three and three games, respectively, last season, numbers that will jump this year. Yale’s defense will also have the luxury of bringing back goalkeeper Sydney Marks ’18, who has played in all 30 games the last two seasons.
Complementing Yale’s returning nucleus will be a group of 11 first years, including several rookies who may be able to make an immediate impact. The Elis’ 2021 recruiting class features two U.S. Lacrosse All-Americans, including attacker Kayla Duperrouzel ’21, who set her high school’s single-season record with 136 draw controls, as well as midfielder Colleen Huffman ’21, who led her high school team to four state championships. The Bulldogs’ backline may also benefit from the physical presence of defender Sofia Caro ’21, who played football and captained her weightlifting team in high school.
Yale will play host to Bryant in a preseason scrimmage this Saturday before the Bulldogs begin the season at home against Albany at 1 p.m. on Feb. 17.
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