Yale Athletics

The Yale women’s lacrosse team will look to extend its best start since 2014 when it begins conference play against ancient rival Harvard this weekend.

Despite the graduation of six starting players from last year’s roster, the Bulldogs (3–0, 0–0 Ivy) have soared through the first trio of fixtures, buoyed by a pair of upsets against nationally ranked teams. Yale opened its season with a two-goal victory over then-No. 24 Albany, before picking up a closer-than-expected win over Quinnipiac and knocking off then-No. 19 UMass behind a dominant first half. The Elis will look to continue their momentum when they host the Crimson (2–1, 0–0) on Saturday in their only rivalry matchup this season.

“Harvard has always been a very strong team in our conference, and this coming Saturday is definitely going to be a battle,” goalie Sydney Marks ’18 said. “We will experience a lot of success if we work hard this week in practice, stay focused and play our game come game day. The rest of the league is also very talented and not to be taken lightly in any capacity, but I truly think we’re going to have a great season against these teams. We do, however, have our work cut out for us.”

The Crimson’s visit to New Haven comes after Harvard split a pair of nonconference games in California. As the Bulldogs hosted the Minutewomen in New Haven, Harvard faced its own ranked opponent, then-No. 24 Stanford, falling 21–11. The Cardinal dominated that match from the onset, carrying an 11–2 lead heading into the second half. To open the second half, Stanford scored five consecutive times in 10 minutes to put the game squarely out of Harvard’s reach. The Crimson paled in all categories — it was outshot 40–18 and had 10 draw controls to the Cardinal’s 23. When Yale last squared off against Stanford, in April, the Bulldogs emerged with a 15–12 win.

The next day, Harvard recovered to earn a 21–14 win over UC Davis. Junior midfielder Keeley MacAfee scored six goals to seal the win, bringing her season total to 11, which leads the squad.

Last season, the Elis fell to Harvard in a heartbreaking 14–13 loss, the first of three one-goal Ivy losses. Although the Crimson leads the all-time series narrowly, 26–20–1, the Bulldogs have not managed a win in their last seven meetings, since before the arrival of head coach Erica LaGrow, who is now in her third year at the helm.

“We are definitely all pumped for this game,” attacker Kayla Duperrouzel ’21 said. “No one on the team has ever beaten Harvard before, and I think that we all know we have something to prove this weekend. Harvard is a great team and it will definitely be a battle the entire game. We have all the pieces, and I’m confident that we will all come ready to compete.”

This year, Yale has reason for optimism. Last weekend saw another stellar performance from the rookie phenom Duperrouzel, who scored three times in her collegiate debut against Albany. Against the Minutewomen, Duperrouzel again powered the offense, scoring four consecutive times in two and a half minutes to hand the Elis a 5–1 lead. Three other players tacked on goals of their own to make it 8–1 just 15 minutes into the match.

The Fairfax Station, Virginia native, who currently leads the team in goals and points, with 10 and 13 respectively, received two honors this week for her contributions. On Monday, the Ivy League named her Offensive Player of the Week, marking the second consecutive week a Bulldog has received the honor — attacker Izzy Nixon ’19 earned the distinction last week. Inside Lacrosse followed it up on Wednesday to name Duperrouzel National Rookie of the Week.

Duperrouzel’s teammate, Nixon, has also delivered critical and consistent performances for the Bulldogs on the offensive end, and her team will rely on her again to begin conference play. With 10.67 draws per game, she leads the nation in draw controls and has been in the double-digits in every game of the season thus far, landing Yale atop the Ivy League in draw controls per game. The Elis’ lone returning All-Ivy player, Nixon sits second on the team in points and fourth in goals.

“Our close team dynamic is really helpful leading up to big games,” defender Margaret Stover ’20 said. “Everyone on our team has a really important role when we prepare for games which keeps us focused and excited. Our hard work in the off-season on our fundamental skills, and relying on each other and the strong leadership we have in our senior class, will help us in difficult games.”

Yale hosts Harvard at 1p.m. Saturday at Reese Stadium.

Angela Xiao | angela.xiao@yale.edu