The Yale women’s lacrosse team began this season having graduated a pair of its top scorers and with just one conference win last year. This season, the Bulldogs have improved dramatically, despite struggling with sluggish starts and playing inconsistently in the middle of their campaign. This weekend, the Bulldogs host the Ivy League’s top squad, No. 10 Penn, to conclude their regular season and celebrate the contributions of the squad’s 10 seniors.
Despite concerns about a defense that returned just one starting player, the Elis (7–7, 2–4 Ivy) enjoyed early success with a 6–1 record to open the season that marked the best beginning the team has seen since 2002. Recently, the Elis have been unable to find their footing. In the throes of the Ivy season, however, the Bulldogs skidded into a four-game losing streak that featured blowout losses to No. 15 Dartmouth and No. 18 Princeton over the last two weekends. This weekend, the Elis face the undefeated a Quaker team (11–23, 5–01) that has annihilated its first five Ivy opponents by a combined margin of 83–42 before uncharacteristically falling to Princeton 21–8 on Wednesday.
“Penn is a spectacular team,” attacker Kayla Duperrouzel ’21 said. “These recent losses may lead some people to underestimate us, but we know we still have not played to our potential yet. Our goal is to put together a full 60 minutes of lacrosse and leave everything we have on the field. We’ve been playing a bit timid, and if we are able to go back to being the confident team that just has fun out there, we can shock a lot of people.”
Despite initial concerns about the lack of returning starters on the team, the defense and goalie Sydney Marks ’18 have kept the team in contention against some of its most challenging opponents with steady and reliable performances that included a season-high 17 saves for Marks against Princeton.
On the offense side, young players have stepped up to deliver critical performances for the Elis, including a pair of rookies — attacker Kayla Duperrouzel ’21 and midfielder Olivia Markert ’21 — who have combined for 34 of the team’s 149 goals despite each missing time due to injuries. This season has also seen breakthrough performances from midfielder Emily Granger ’18 and midfielder Barrett Carlson ’20, who are first and second on the team in scoring, respectively.
Last week, the Bulldogs were missing Duperrouzel, Carlson and defender Cooper Hall ’18 and ultimately fell 17–4 to Dartmouth. The Big Green was Penn’s toughest opponent this season — while the Quakers quashed the rest of the Ivy field easily, they edged Dartmouth by just two goals, 13–11.
Early in the league’s history, Harvard monopolized the league title. In the last decade, however, the Quakers have taken over. Since 2007, Penn has secured at least a share of the championship, including six outright crowns. Yale has just two shared Ivy titles in the program’s history — it shared the first championship in 1980 with the Quakers, and in 2003 split it three ways with Dartmouth and Princeton. The Quakers own a 13-year winning streak against the Bulldogs.
Penn has also benefited from its young talent. On Monday, rookie attacker Zoe Belodeau earned her third Ivy League offensive player of the week nod, after totaling nine points against Harvard in a 24–13 win. The Quakers boast six players who have totalled 35 or more points on the season.
The Bulldogs will have to capitalize on creating enough offensive output and exploiting momentary advantages to score in spurts, as they have done successfully earlier in the season. Against Dartmouth, the Elis let those opportunities slip away as they struggled to crack the zone defense.
Yale, which currently sits tied for fifth in the Ivy League with Cornell, needs to pull off a focused, tight and consistent game to potentially upset Penn. Even if they do, they need the Big Red to drop its own Saturday match against Harvard and for Columbia to fall to Princeton to secure a place in the Ivy Tournament. If all those outcomes line up, the Bulldogs will sit in a tie for the last playoff spot and potentially continue their season.
“My overall evaluation would be that we certainly did not play our best on Saturday [against Dartmouth], and we can’t pick and choose when we’re really going to come and play and fight against a strong team like this,” Marks said. “I do want to make a shout-out to our team chemistry in general … the team is unbelievably close — through wins, losses, tough practices, brutal nights of studying, you name it — and that’s something we should all be very proud of.”
The Elis host Penn for Senior Day beginning at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
Angela Xiao | email@example.com