Defense Limits Aztecs to Season-Low Goal Total; Hat Trick for Doherty
NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Mother Nature keeps throwing curveballs at the Yale women's lacrosse team, but the Bulldogs remain unfazed. On Saturday night at Reese Stadium -- despite the fact that spring technically began more than a week ago -- the Bulldogs found themselves playing in a snowstorm. But by now they are used to less-than-ideal weather conditions, having played multiple games in the snow and cold (along with others in the rain and sleet). The formula for success that has emerged for Yale is straightforward: dominate on defense, and get offense from a variety of sources to produce a win. The Bulldogs did just that Saturday night vs. San Diego State, getting goals from seven different players and holding the Aztecs to their lowest goal total of the season for a 12-6 win.
The snow had been falling steadily all day by the time the game began, and the Reese turf gradually turned whiter as the game progressed and the temperature dropped. The Bulldog defense was similarly inhospitable to the visitors from California. This was the fifth game in a row that Yale (6-5, 1-2 Ivy League) held its opponent to its lowest or second-lowest goal total of the year.
"The defense played its usual great game," said Anne Phillips, Yale's Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Women's Lacrosse. "They caused turnovers, they got ground balls, they had interceptions, they caused dropped passes. It was another great defensive effort."
San Diego State (7-3, 4-0 MPSF) came in seemingly firing on all cylinders, with a seven-game winning streak and 106 goals in the last six games. But the Aztecs found the going tough right from the get-go Saturday, with the Bulldogs grabbing an early 3-0 lead on a pair of goals by sophomore attacker Hope Hanley (one assisted by sophomore attacker Tess McEvoy off a free position attempt and one assisted by senior attacker Kerri Fleishhacker) and one by senior midfielder Christina Doherty (assisted by Fleishhacker).
After an SDSU timeout the Aztecs managed to get within 3-2 on goals by midfielders Vickie Porter and Sophie Koubek. But following a Bulldog timeout the Yale defense, and senior goalkeeper Erin Mullins (five saves), really cracked down. The Aztecs, who had entered the day eighth in the country in scoring offense, would go 29:45 without scoring again -- making this the second straight game where Yale has put together a stretch of at least 29 minutes without allowing a goal.
While the defense was clamping down, the Yale offense gradually built the lead from 3-2 to 10-2. The Bulldogs gained momentum with three goals heading into halftime (Doherty from senior attacker Erin Magnuson, senior midfielder Cathryn Avallone on a free position, and freshman midfielder Maggie Pizzo from McEvoy). Pizzo's goal came with just 13 seconds left in the half, and the play was jump-started by a caused turnover from freshman midfielder Emily Granger.
Even free position attempts were dicey for SDSU, and the Aztecs came up empty on a pair early in the second half en route to a 2-for-6 performance overall. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, got their second-half scoring started with a free position goal from McEvoy. Goals by Avallone (assisted by Magnuson), Pizzo (assisted by Fleishhacker) and Fleishhacker (on a free position) then made the score 10-2 with 12:52 to play.
SDSU finally broke its scoring drought by getting the draw after the Fleishhacker goal and scoring on a quick goal by midfielder Christina Ricciardulli. But that wound up being the only tally of the game for Ricciardulli, who came into the day as the team's leader in goals with 20.
"We have enough defenders that we can match up pretty well against anyone," said Phillips. "San Diego State wanted to feed from behind, and we were able to pressure them and keep them from being successful. Their leading scorers were neutralized, and that says something about our matchups and what a good job they did."
After another SDSU goal with 10:39 to play Doherty gave Yale even more of a cushion by notching her 15th goal of the season. With at least four games left in the season, she has 15 goals and has already bested her previous career high by three.
"Christina did everything tonight -- she scored, she defended, she was the ignition to our transition game," said Phillips. "She's like the Postal Service: she delivers. Not matter whether it's rain, sleet, or whatever, you can count on Christina."
Sophomore defender Emily Markham helped ward off any potential late comeback by the Aztecs by drawing a charge with 5:30 remaining. She and Walker finished with a team-best three caused turnovers, while senior defender Clare Curran and sophomore defender Victoria Moore added two each. Markham also tied Doherty for the team lead in ground balls with four.
SDSU did get on the board twice in the final 90 seconds -- but that was too little, too late. Magnuson scored off a Doherty assist with 11 seconds left for the 12-6 final.
Yale finished with a season-high eight assists for the game, an even more impressive feat given the fact that the cold and wet weather conditions made passing and catching difficult. Fleishhacker had a team-best three assists, and now has 28 points (17-11-28) for the season.
"We can play much better," said Phillips. "We try to thread the needle with our passes, and that was one of the things that the conditions didn't allow us to do."
Yale also won the draw control battle (12-8) despite playing without the team's draw control leader -- junior attacker Nicole Daniggelis, who has not been 100% healthy this season. Doherty and junior defender Kate Walker got three draw controls each, and freshman midfielder Madeleine Gramigna chipped in a pair.
"We're really fortunate to have someone like Madeleine Gramigna -- 'Migs', as we call her," said Phillips. "She has done a great job, as has Cathryn Avallone, in taking draws. They each bring different things to the draw circle. We have skill at that position, and a bit of depth. We managed to win the draw control against a quick, fast team that had been dominating on the draw [SDSU had a 139-106 advantage on the draw entering the game]."
Combined with a 14-6 win vs. BU Wednesday, the Bulldogs now have some momentum as they prepare for next week's Ivy League game vs. Princeton on Saturday Apr. 4 at noon.
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (firstname.lastname@example.org), Yale Sports Publicity
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