With just under half of conference play under its belt, the Yale women’s lacrosse team already has more Ivy League wins this season than last, but the final four weeks of the season will determine whether the team can translate its strong season thus far into a solid showing in the Ivy League, beginning with a home match against Columbia on Saturday.
The Bulldogs (7–4, 2–1 Ivy) concluded their nonconference slate last Friday, falling 9–4 to No. 7 Towson in a hard-fought match that put Yale’s strong defense on full display. After the team’s best start to the season since 2002 — with a 6–1 record that included two Ivy victories and a pair of upsets over ranked teams — the Elis struggled through the middle portion of their schedule. As they enter the final four matches of the season, they will seek to harness their strengths and chase a top-4 spot and an Ivy League tournament bid. They begin this final sprint by hosting Columbia (4–7, 1–2) for a Saturday matinee.
“We play the best as a team when we go into the game with a confident underdog mentality,” attacker Kayla Duperrouzel ’21 said. “We have four Ivy games left, and they are all crucial. The Ivy League is so competitive this year. Any game could go to any team depending on who shows up ready to compete that day. We’ve worked so hard this year, and now it’s our job to execute and come out with some Ivy wins.”
In the middle stretch of their season, the Elis proved to be worthy, although ultimately unsuccessful, challengers to some of the nation’s best teams — No. 2 Boston College and No. 7 Towson — but also succumbed to inconsistent play, losing to Canisius in overtime, coming back against Marist just in time for a one-goal win and falling far short against Cornell after allowing the Big Red to build a 6–0 lead in the opening sequence.
Last season, in head coach Erica LaGrow’s second season at the helm, the Bulldogs often suffered Ivy heartbreak. They walked away from the season with just one win and six losses, three of them decided by a single goal. This season, they have already have gotten off to a better start, flipping the script on Harvard with a one-goal victory, continuing their win streak against Brown and losing to Cornell by a smaller margin than last year, despite their abysmal start.
This year’s match between the Bulldogs and the Lions will likely be a competitive one. Last year, Columbia was one of the trio of one-goal victors over the Elis, notching a 15–14 win. After the Lions earned an early lead, the Bulldogs spent the rest of the time chasing them down. Although the game remained close and almost exactly tit for tat throughout, with the Elis never down by more than three goals, they could not overtake Columbia at any point.
Although the Lions’ conference record to date suggests that they might be a manageable opponent for this year’s Elis, their record of two losses and one win might not be representative. They played their Ivy opener against Dartmouth, which currently sits atop the League rankings and is the only team with a 3–0 record. Just one other squad — No. 11 Penn — is undefeated, and the Quakers have played just two conference matches to date.
The Lions fell to both the Big Green and the Big Red by large margins, 20–10 and 17–5, respectively. Both of those were larger deficits than last year’s outcomes, but Columbia has also displayed an ability to topple its toughest opponents. The Lions also pulled off a one-goal victory over Harvard to settle old scores; last year, the Crimson defeated Columbia 10–8.
The Yale defense, which returned just goalie Sydney Marks ’18 and one starting defender, Cooper Hall ’18, as well as a converted midfielder in Taryn Gallagher ’18 at the beginning of this season, has become one of the team’s consistent bright spots. Marks has been steady in goal, and the defense held Towson to fewer goals — nine — than all of Towson’s prior opponents scored, except for No. 1 Stony Brook.
“Sydney, Cooper and Taryn have done an excellent job leading the defensive unit,” LaGrow said. “I credit coach Colleen Smith for preparing our defenders well and our senior leadership on the field.”
The Bulldogs’ offense, while stifled by Towson last week, is also on a roll. Attacker Izzy Nixon ’19 has led the nation in draw controls per game for weeks, and Yale has benefited greatly from the scoring capacity of rookies Duperrouzel and midfielder Olivia Markert ’21.
The offense is also anchored by strong senior leadership, with midfielder and captain Madeleine Gramigna ’18 having scored 14 goals, attacker Emily Granger ’18 with 17 goals and attacker Kiwi Comizio ’18 back on the field after a nine-month rehabilitation from a torn ACL last April.
“I want us to make the Ivy tournament, and hopefully make the NCAA tournament,” Comizio said. “I also just want myself and my class to give these last four weeks everything we have.”
Yale hosts Columbia at Reese Stadium at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
Angela Xiao | firstname.lastname@example.org