The Yale women’s lacrosse team has struggled with consistency in recent games. On Friday, hosting their fourth top 20–ranked opponent this season, the Bulldogs put together a strong 60 minutes but were ultimately unable to surmount the challenge.
The Elis (7–4, 2–1 Ivy), fresh off a midweek comeback victory against Marist, hosted No. 9 Towson (8–2, 0–0 CAA) in a Friday matinee that was ultimately decided in a battle of defensive strength. Yale’s back end put up a strong performance against a high-scoring team, but the relentless Tiger defense stifled the Eli offense and denied Yale its third upset bid, as the Bulldogs fell 9–4.
“I am proud of the way our team performed throughout a tough stretch of games,” head coach Erica LaGrow said. “We certainly have a lot of room for improvement, but we are focused on the process. Each day we get better is a good day.”
Yale has topped two ranked opponents already — the Bulldogs overtook then-No. 24 Albany in their season opener before knocking off then-No. 19 UMass. In an up-and-down spring break, the Bulldogs also faced the still-undefeated No. 2 Boston College, entering the half down just one goal before ultimately falling in the second period.
Towson entered the match with two upset victories of its own. First, the squad narrowly defeated then-No. 4 Penn State in its own season opener. The Tigers have lost just twice this season — once, in overtime, against No. 7 Loyola and another two weeks ago to No. 1 Stony Brook, which they followed by defeating then-No. 6 Florida the next weekend.
Despite Towson’s record, Yale had reason for optimism. Attacker Izzy Nixon ’19 leads the nation in draw controls per game, and the Elis have benefitted from a deep offensive squad headlined by the arsenal of first-year scorers. Attacker Kayla Duperrouzel ’21, sidelined by injury against Marist earlier in the week, returned to the turf for the Elis alongside midfielder Olivia Markert ’21, who notched a quintet of tallies against the Red Foxes to headline the Elis’ successful comeback.
Yale, which has struggled with lethargic starts, came out of the gates charging at Reese Stadium. Friday’s opening minutes looked particularly promising, as Nixon won the first draw, and midfielder Emily Granger ’18 took the first shot of the game. Towson’s suffocating defense, which held opponents to as few as two and three goals earlier this season, applied immediate pressure. But, the Bulldog offense pushed on, while the defense, anchored by goalie Sydney Marks ’18, held off the Tigers’ own attempts to goal.
The Elis’ first opportunity came with a free position shot five minutes into the first half, on which Markert capitalized to hand her team the early lead and score her 13th goal of her rookie campaign.
Yale retained the narrow advantage until almost halfway through the first frame, pushing back against a fast and aggressive Towson squad. When the Tigers finally broke through 13 minutes into the period, they scored twice in the span 40 seconds to flip the lead 2–1.
The Bulldogs’ defense did not relent, and neither team was able to find the back of the net for seven minutes after Towson’s second goal. Eventually, the Tigers notched their third and fourth goal in succession to leave Yale trailing 4–1 with eight minutes remaining in the first half.
The Elis came within striking distance to erasing the deficit in the remaining minutes of the half, as Duperrouzel set up midfielder Barrett Carlson ’20 for a successful goal before converting on a free position shot to score a tally of her own a minute later to cut the lead to 4–3 with four minutes remaining. Towson scored again eleven seconds before halftime to pull ahead to 5–3 heading into the second period.
Still within reach of a win, the Bulldogs saw their chances diminish throughout the second period. Although attacker Maggie Pizzo ’18 opened the second half with a goal for the Elis just a minute into the frame to cut the Tigers’ lead to one, Pizzo was Yale’s lone scorer in the second half. As rain started to come down on the field, Towson remained fast, organized and unrelenting. The Bulldogs, who converted on both first-period, free-position shots, went 0–5 in the second half. They took just eight shots total, restricted by Towson’s crippling defense.
While the Eli defense put up a formidable and consistent challenge, Towson managed to periodically slip through the cracks. The Tigers’ four second-half goals, while consecutive, came in between long stretches of solid play by the Bulldogs. Towson played a long game, exhausting the Bulldogs and exploiting momentary advantages to slowly but surely remove Yale from contention and earn the 9–4 victory.
Despite the loss, Yale’s defense played one of its best games of the year against a Tiger team that averages 13.6 goals per game and has scored at least 13 in eight of its last nine matches. Marks led the defense, which entered the year returning just one other starting player this year, with a steady and dependable performance and made seven saves.
“We do not let the other team’s ranking and strength intimidate us,” Markert said. “We understand that our opponent is very tough, but we also recognize that we can be successful if we work hard. When we play confidently, we play well.”
With the loss, the Bulldogs conclude nonconference play and will face four Ivy League opponents over the remaining four weeks of the season.
Angela Xiao | firstname.lastname@example.org