Bulldogs Deny Stags' Upset Bid
FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Upset-minded Fairfield began celebrating as what appeared to be the game-tying goal headed towards the goal line with just over 11 minutes left Sunday afternoon at University Field. The Stags had hung tough against the Bulldogs all game long, and Marit Westenberg's shot on the only Fairfield penalty corner of the game was behind the Yale goalkeeper and on its way in to knot the game 2-2 -- until freshman midfielder/back Georgia Holland made the play of the game. Holland lunged forward and got to the ball in the air just before it crossed, winding up in the cage herself but keeping the ball out. The game-saving effort proved vital in Yale's 2-1 win.
Holland has been one of Yale's top offensive players all season, but with injuries shuffling Yale's backfield lineup she has been called upon to take up more of the defensive workload of late.
Plays like the one she made against the Stags are the reason why. Holland has become like an extra goalie on the field at times, and had four defensive saves in the six games prior to Sunday.
"Georgia has brought her 'A Game' every day, whether it's in the backfield of the midfield," said head coach Pam Stuper. "We know we can count on her to make a big play when we need it. She brings a great mentality and game sense. We were only up 2-1 when she made that save, and we were under a lot of pressure. She made sure it stayed 2-1."
Yale (10-5) was coming off a 10-0 win over Penn on Saturday, but the much-improved Stags provided a challenge. Fairfield (8-10) has already won twice as many games this season as it had in the three previous seasons combined. The Bulldogs held an 8-1 advantage in shots for the first half, but scored just twice.
Junior midfielder Dinah Landshut set up the first goal at 24:00, driving in from the left side and beating two defenders simultaneously before feeding sophomore forward/midfielder Mary Beth Barham. Barham got Fairfield keeper Maddy Sposito down and out of position before tapping in her fourth goal of the season.
That was Landshut's 14th assist, moving her within two of the school single-season record set last year by Katie Cantore '10. Landshut is also now all alone in third place on Yale's career assist list with 27.
"Dinah had another great game," said Stuper. "She did an outstanding job staying poised under pressure. Fairfield was really collapsing on her, but she broke through the defense and generated some good attack."
Fairfield answered with Westenberg lining one in from the top of the circle at 32:23. But the Stags had just over a minute to celebrate before Yale was back on the scoreboard, as freshman forward Erica Borgo set up senior forward Johna Paolino in front for a goal at 33:25. Borgo has now taken over the team lead in points (6-7-19).
The score remained that way in a second half that saw Fairfield outshoot Yale 6-3. Even after Holland's game-saving stop, the Stags kept up the pressure. With 3:18 left Fairfield pulled Sposito in favor of a kicking back, and the extra field player enabled the Stags to pin the Bulldogs in their own end for much of the game's final moments. But Holland made a diving tackle in the circle with a minute to go, and sophomore back Lexy Adams followed that up by breaking up another Fairfield run. Landshut used an aerial to get the ball out to midfield for the final seconds, where the clock ran out as the Stags were trying to get the ball back into Yale's circle.
"Fairfield played us tough," Stuper said. "They applied a lot of pressure, and we got back on our heels a little bit. The big thing that we didn't do today was finish."
Still, the Bulldogs came away with the win, and have now achieved back-to-back double-digit win seasons for the first time since 2002-03. With two games left they remain within striking distance of the school record for wins in Ivy League play (six), and 12 wins would tie for third-most in school history. Yale's two goals Sunday give the Bulldogs 47 for the season, putting the first back-to-back 50-goal seasons in Yale history within reach. Yale scored 51 goals last year, and the school record is 55 (1998).
Every goal Yale scores this season brings the world closer to a cure for myotonic dystrophy. Sophomore goalkeeper Ona McConnell (London, England) has been diagnosed with the disease, the most common form of muscular dystrophy. The Bulldogs are taking pledges for a season-long "Goal-a-thon" as part of their "Get a Grip" campaign to raise awareness and funds for the Myotonic Dystrophy Foundation. For more information, visit http://www.yalebulldogs.com/getagrip
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (firstname.lastname@example.org), Yale Sports Publicity