Bulldogs Go Out as Winners, Beat Brown 10-8 in Finale

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Devon Rhodes celebrates a goal. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Finish Season with Most Wins Since 2008

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The Yale women's lacrosse team ended its season on high note on Saturday afternoon at Stevenson Field, topping Brown 10-8 and finishing with the team's best single-season win total since 2008. Freshman midfielder Nicole Daniggelis had a hat trick and senior attacker Devon Rhodes had two points as she finished her career ranked in Yale's top 15 in all three scoring categories (assists, goals and points).

This was the final career game for the Bulldogs' two seniors -- Rhodes, Yale's captain, and defender Adrianna Amendola.

"A lot of things came together today -- offense, defense and goaltending," said Anne Phillips, Yale's Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Women's Lacrosse. "Following up on that tough loss to BU this past Wednesday when we nearly rallied from an eight-goal deficit but wound up losing by one, this was a great team effort. Overall, we really started to play at a different level as the season wore on. That's what happens when you have so many younger players playing and developing."

While neither team had a chance at the Ivy League playoffs, there was still plenty to play for on this sunny and warm Saturday afternoon. The Bears -- who pushed 2013 Ivy League champion Penn to overtime before losing last weekend -- were one win away from tying their program record for wins, while the Bulldogs were seeking a winning season.

Brown (9-6, 2-5 Ivy League) scored the game's first goal, but after that Yale (8-7, 2-5 Ivy League) gradually began taking control. After free position goals by Rhodes and Daniggelis gave Yale a 2-1 lead, the Bears would never have the lead again.

Brown did come back to tie the game on two occasions, starting with a free position goal by midfielder Abby Bunting that knotted the score at 2-2 at 15:31.

Shortly after that Daniggelis had a free position shot partially blocked, but Rhodes was perfectly positioned behind the cage. She caught the ball after it sailed over the crossbar and then immediately sent it back in front of the cage, where junior attacker Jen DeVito caught it and scored to make it 3-2 Yale at 13:08.

That wound up being the final point of Rhodes' career at Yale, as she ended up 12th on Yale's career points list (135), 13th on Yale's career goals list (101) and 15th on Yale's career assists list (34).

"She was my first recruit at Yale," said Phillips. "We struggled and had three losing seasons in her first three years. I'm proud of her for sticking with the program. She stepped up as a senior and really helped all of our younger players. She helped them realize they could change things. She also did a lot for them as far as confidence, and was great for team chemistry. She set the stage for the future of the program, and that's her legacy."

Brown tied the game again when a free position attempt enabled attacker Bre Hudgins to pass to attacker Danielle Mastro for a goal at 8:29.

But Yale scored the final three goals of the half, starting with the first career goal for freshman midfielder Tori Virtue. Virtue got wide-open in front of the cage and buried a feed from DeVito at 5:10.

Daniggelis extended the lead when she made Brown goalie Kellie Roddy pay for straying too far from the cage on a clear attempt. Daniggelis chased her down near the restraining line, stick-checked the ball away from her and scooped up the ground ball. Daniggelis was temporarily stopped by a Brown foul, but after the restart she took a few steps before firing in a long-distance shot with the net open and Roddy far out of position.

The Bulldogs kept up the offensive pressure as the half came to a close. With 20.6 seconds remaining, DeVito fed sophomore midfielder Erin Magnuson for catch-and shoot to make it 6-3 at halftime. DeVito and Rhodes would finish the day tied for third in the Ivy League with 16 assists each.

"We worked on assisted goals this week, because we knew that would be key against Brown based on the way they played," said Phillips.

The Bears reversed some first-half trends to make the second half interesting. After the Bulldogs won eight of 10 draw controls in the first half, Brown won eight of 10 in the second. And after Yale held a 15-6 advantage in shots in the first, Brown had a 20-8 advantage in the second.

The Bears scored three of the first four goals of the second, with Yale's lone tally coming when Daniggelis scored with the Bulldogs up a player after a yellow card on Brown midfielder Lindsay Minges.

After Brown closed to within 7-6 with 18:51 to play, Yale called timeout. That helped spur a 3-to-1 Bulldog run that put the game out of reach. First, sophomore midfielder Christina Doherty gave the Bulldogs some breathing room by firing in a low shot from the right side with 16:58 to play for her ninth goal of the year.

Doherty, a consistent contributor on draw controls and ground balls, was one of many players who stepped up offensively on Saturday to offset the loss of sophomore midfielder Cathryn Avallone, who missed her second straight game due to injury.

"Erin Magnuson stepped up and scored a couple goals with Cathryn Avallone out," said Phillips. "Tori Virtue scored a huge goal, and it was nice to see Christina Doherty score as well."

The Bulldogs played ball control as much as they could in the final minutes, but Brown still had plenty of scoring chances. That was where junior goalkeeper Erin McMullan came up big, making six of her seven saves for the game in the second half.

With 6:45 left McMullan made a nice save on a shot by midfielder Kasey Wagner, but could not control the ball as she ranged far out of the cage trying to chase it down. That gave Bunting a shot at an open net from about eight meters out, but her shot sailed inches over the crossbar.

The final minutes saw some more big saves by McMullan, including her denial of a point-blank shot by Hudgins with 3:30 left. But the Bears kept possession after that shot, and attacker Grace Healy scored with 3:21 remaining to make it 8-7 Yale.

The next draw control was crucial, and was only in doubt for a split second. After it flew high in the air, Doherty sprinted towards it and nabbed it cleanly. She and Daniggelis both finished the game with three draw controls.

The Bears then began pressuring out, with Roddy coming out of the goal, but the Bulldogs kept their composure. Magnuson evaded a double team and fired the ball into the empty net with 1:39 to play. That was her 19th goal and 25th point of the season, a dramatic increase as compared to her freshman year (six goals, eight points).

Brown got the ensuing draw control but turned the ball over, and eventually DeVito fed the ball to sophomore attacker Kerri Fleishhacker for another empty-net goal that made it 10-7 Yale with 43 seconds left. The Bulldogs finished the season with 159 goals, the 11th-best total in school history.

Yale then sent in a batch of subs, and Hudgins scored with 35 seconds remaining to pull Brown within two. But McMullan picked off a Bears pass with 20 seconds to play, snuffing out the final Brown threat.

"It wasn't that we didn't make mistakes today, but we limited them," said Phillips. "We only had 12 turnovers, and we were successful on 12 of 13 clears. Erin McMullan made some big saves, especially in the last five minutes."

McMullan finished the season with 99 saves, currently second in the Ivy League. There were plenty of other individual milestones for the Bulldogs as well. Daniggelis finished with the team lead in goals (39), edging out Rhodes (37). That was the most goals by a Yale freshman since Lauren Taylor '08 scored 47 in 2005. Daniggelis ended the day tied for second in the Ivy League in goals, while Rhodes was tied for third in the league in points (53).

Daniggelis also ended the season with a remarkable 76 draw controls; the previous Yale single-season record was 44 by All-American Miles Whitman '04 in 2004. That partially overshadowed another great season in that category by Doherty (35 draws, tied for seventh on Yale's single season list with Jenn Warden '09 from 2006). Doherty's 36 ground balls were the most by a Yale player in five years (Warden had 36 in 2008), and place her third in the league this season.

The Bulldogs also continued to make progress in the most important statistic of all: wins. Over the past three seasons they have gone up steadily from three wins to five wins to eight wins. Saturday's victory helped affirm many of the reasons for optimism as the team begins to turn its attention towards 2014.

 "We're losing only one starter, and many of the returning players have seen significant action," said Phillips. "The future of the program is bright."

Report by Sam Rubin '95 (sam.rubin@yale.edu), Yale Sports Publicity