Bulldogs End Season with Most Wins Since 2008
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Senior defender Adrienne Tarver, Yale's captain, grabbed one final loose ball in the waning seconds of Yale's game vs. Brown Friday night at Reese Stadium, and moments later leapt in the air in celebration as the final horn sounded and the Bulldogs held on for a 9-8 win. It was a fitting way for the season finale to end, as Tarver and the rest of the nine-member senior class depart with a victory that clinched three straight seasons with a better won-lost record than the previous season.
"This was a great team effort," said Anne Phillips, Yale's Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Women's Lacrosse. "All the seniors got in the game, and they deserved to be in the game. They moved the program forward during their four years here, and it was fitting that they got the chance to contribute to one final win."
The seniors thus saw the program progress to the point where their win total as seniors (nine) was triple their win total as freshman (three). Yale (9-6, 3-4 Ivy League) finishes the season with its most wins since 2008, and most Ivy League wins since 2010.
Brown (9-6, 2-5 Ivy League) kept things close all game long, however, in front of a large and boisterous crowd of several hundred at Reese.
The first 16 minutes of the game were particularly hectic, as the teams combined for five goals while committing eight turnovers. The Bulldogs found themselves trailing 3-2 at that point, with goals from junior midfielder Cathryn Avallone (assisted by senior attacker Jen DeVito) and sophomore attacker Nicole Daniggelis.
But the Yale defense then settled in against a Brown team that entered the game first in the league in shooting percentage (.507) and second in goals (171). Senior goalkeeper Erin McMullan made one of her best saves of the night to deny midfielder Kerianne Hunt from point-blank range off a feed from defender Bre Hudgins with less than seven minutes remaining in the first. DeVito then delivered a goal with 1:39 to play, bouncing a low line drive past Brown goalkeeper Kellie Roddy, but Bears attacker Danielle Mastro scored with 19.2 seconds left to send her team into halftime up 4-3.
An early turning point in the second half came five minutes in when freshman attacker Tess McEvoy was shaken up after being fouled by Bears defender Erin Roos, who received a yellow card on the play. McEvoy was forced to the sideline, and Phillips inserted sophomore midfielder Lauren Wackerle to take the crucial free-position shot. Wackerle fired in her second goal of the season, tying the game 4-4 with 24:41 to play.
A turnover in the Yale zone gave Hudgins a chance to race in uncontested on McMullan for a goal with 23:01 to play that put Brown back ahead. But over the course of the next 20 minutes -- jump-started early on by another big save from McMullan on Hunt -- the Bears would score just once, and the Bulldogs were able to take the lead. After Daniggelis faked a pass behind the cage and then cut in front for a goal to tie the score 5-5, Brown momentarily went back ahead on a goal by defender Rachael Walsh with 19:12 to play.
A free-position goal by Daniggelis then started a three-goal run by Yale that enabled the Bulldogs to seize some control of the game. Two minutes after scoring, Daniggelis caused a turnover and Doherty came away with the ball, earning a free position attempt that she converted to give Yale a 7-6 lead -- its first lead in more than 33 minutes.
McMullan preserved that lead by going low to deny a shot by attacker Grace Healy with 12 minutes left. Doherty then extended the lead when she grabbed a loose ball in the 8-meter arc and deposited it past Roddy with 9:03 to play.
With the two-goal cushion, the Bulldogs aimed to play some ball control. In that regard they had the best weapon on the field in Daniggelis, who got the draw control after Doherty's second goal -- one of 12 draws on the night for her. After this one Daniggelis momentarily headed off the field, because by then it was clear that she was not 100 percent -- and has not been for a while. That made her performance on Friday all the more remarkable.
"She has got some healing to do in the offseason," said Phillips in reference to Daniggelis, who has been playing with a brace on her knee all month. "She played like a champion tonight. She dominated the draw, and had some big goals."
Daniggelis had to contend with Healy, who entered the night as the only player in the Ivy League within 30 draw controls of Daniggelis' total (Daniggelis had 92, Healy had 67). Healy, a senior, had established the Ivy League career draw controls record with 228 entering the night, but Daniggelis was at 168 after only 27 career games. She is now at 180, and Healy -- who had one draw Friday -- ended her career at 229.
After a series of turnovers, Brown got the ball and called timeout with 5:31 to play to set up for the critical possession trailing by two. But McMullan made a save on a low free position shot by midfielder Abby Bunting, keeping the lead intact. She would finish the night with nine saves, keeping Brown scoreless on both of its free position shots.
"Erin had a great night in the cage," said Phillips. "Without any of those nine saves, it's an overtime game. Our defense played well in front of her, but we had some untimely turnovers that made things difficult on them."
A Yale turnover enabled Brown to get another shot with 3:30 left, but McMullan denied Mastro and Tarver came up with the ground ball. Another Yale turnover enabled Brown to pull within one on a goal by attacker Janie Gion with 2:39 to play, adding to the drama.
Daniggelis reached high to grab the ensuing draw control, and the Bulldogs called timeout amidst heavy pressure from the Bears. Yale eventually got the ball deep enough to make Brown pay, as Roddy was out of the cage when Avallone darted in from the right side to deposit one in the empty net and increase the lead to 9-7 with 1:54 left.
After another draw control by Daniggelis, another series of turnovers ended with Hudgins scoring her 40th goal of the season to pull Brown within 9-8 with 11.3 seconds to play.
Ironically, after battling for so many crucial draw controls, Daniggelis' final one -- which helped seal the game -- came in relatively easy fashion. With the ball set for the draw, a Brown player attempted to move from one side of the field to the other before the whistle blew. That violation resulted in Daniggelis getting awarded the ball at midfield. Under pressure, she tossed it back to Tarver, who scooped it up to preserve possession and run out the victory. She was mobbed by her teammates at midfield after time expired.
In addition to a pair of critical ground balls and a draw control, Tarver also delivered another outstanding defensive performance on Friday in limiting the impact of Hudgins, a second team All-Northeast Region selection last year. Hudgins was averaging nearly six shots per game through the first 14 games of the season, but got just two shots Friday.
"Every other team that played Brown face-guarded Bre," said Phillips. "We just told Tarver to deny her the ball and play her straight up. She's got that kind of ability, and she did a great job."
For Yale, Friday's win comes less than a week after what could have been a crushing 8-7 loss at Cornell -- a defeat that knocked the Bulldogs out of contention for one of the four spots in the Ivy League Tournament. But after a season marked by near misses (three of Yale's four league losses were by a combined total of six goals), the Bulldogs displayed their resiliency on Friday. For that, Phillips credited the seniors -- DeVito, McMullan, Tarver, midfielder Ashley McCormick, midfielder Julie Mongan, attacker Meghan Murray, defender Kallie Parchman, midfielder Courteney Rutter and defender Katherine Sherrill.
"We talked about it with the team," said Phillips. "In a situation like that, being out of contention, a team could go through the motions. We challenged them to do what they've done all season -- play hard. There's that saying, 'Play every game like it's your last', and for nine seniors here that was true tonight. So we had the seniors speak to the team, talking about the need to take advantage of every opportunity you've got because your careers are over before you know it. It's great that they went out on a winning note, and also really challenged the underclassmen to keep improving."
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (firstname.lastname@example.org), Yale Sports Publicity