Feb. 25, 2009
FAIRFIELD, Conn. - It didn't take long for the 2009 Yale women's lacrosse team to encounter adversity, but when it hit the Bulldogs responded. Yale fell behind 4-0 in Wednesday's season opener at Fairfield and spent most of the game trailing, but the Bulldogs were ahead when it really mattered. Junior attacker Jenna Block's goal with 1:25 left in overtime lifted Yale to a thrilling 11-10 win, capping a game full of comebacks. Fairfield led by four goals at four separate times, but the Bulldogs rallied for the victory thanks to a defense that allowed only two goals in the final 34:41.
"This game was about heart and determination," said Anne Phillips, who won her debut as Yale's Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Women's Lacrosse. "It was a tale of two halves. In the first half, we were unsettled both offensively and defensively. In the second half, our defense settled down and gave us opportunities on attack, which we started to convert."
The comeback would have seemed improbable to anyone who only saw the first seven minutes of the game, when the Bulldogs fell behind 4-0. Fairfield scored 36 seconds into the game and didn't look back, claiming the game's first three draw controls before sophomore attacker Myra Trivellas finally chased one down for Yale with the Bulldogs already trailing 3-0. A Yale turnover on that possession enabled the Stags to go up 4-0, prompting a timeout from Phillips.
Senior midfielder Jenn Warden, the Bulldogs' top returning scorer, helped slow Fairfield's momentum with an unassisted goal eight minutes in, and two minutes after that Block took the ball out from behind the cage and deposited the first of her three goals for the game. But Fairfield denied two Yale free-position attempts: one from junior attacker Jessica Sturgill, whose attempt was partially blocked and hit the crossbar, and one from Warden that was saved by Lauren Chatnik. The Stags then scored twice to go back up by four, 6-2, with six minutes left in the first half.
The Bulldogs chipped away at the lead in the final minutes of the half, and Block was involved in both goals. First, she set up Warden for a one-timer right in front to get Yale within 6-3. After Fairfield went up 7-3 with just over a minute to play, Block's tally with 28 seconds left made the score 7-4 at halftime.
"Jenna did a great job of making herself a scoring threat while also quarterbacking the offense," said Phillips. "That's what we need from her."
The Bulldogs made a pre-planned switch in goal at halftime, as freshman Whitney Quackenbush came on in relief of Katie Janian (three saves). Fairfield opened the second half with another quick goal, catching Yale in transition to go up 8-4. But the Stags would score only once more in the next 28 minutes of regulation as the Bulldogs slowly made their comeback.
Quackenbush helped spark the rally, stopping a free position shot from attacker Abbey Goodwin with 25 minutes left and denying a point-blank shot by Goodwin three minutes later. Down at the other end of the field a minute after that, freshman attacker Kerry Hamill showed good composure in picking up a loose ball in the fan and finding a way to get it past Chatnik to get the Bulldogs within three. Quackenbush then denied another Fairfield free position shot to keep her team within striking distance. She would finish with six saves in 36 minutes of work.
"Whitney made some big saves and great clears that helped us get going," Phillips said. "For a freshman to come in to her first game and play like that was huge."
The Bulldogs caught a tough break when Block had a goal waved off with 18 minutes to play; the ruling was she had been fouled before she got the shot off. Sturgill brought Yale within two with 12:30 remaining, backing her defender down before turning and firing the ball in.
Fairfield midfielder Rebecca White's goal at 10:04, her fifth of the day, put Yale back down by three, but the Bulldogs responded immediately. Trivellas got the draw control, and 18 seconds after White's goal Warden scored to make the score 9-7 Fairfield.
Then Sturgill took over. She bounced in a feed from Block with 8:56 to play, then converted a free position shot with 5:03 left to even the score at nine. After a Fairfield timeout the final three minutes were hectic, starting with Quackenbush having to make a save on White. A yellow card then took White off the field with 1:50 to play, and with 1:02 on the clock senior midfielder Taylor Fragapane drove into the fan and fed an open Sturgill for the go-ahead goal. Sturgill finished with a team-high four goals.
"She's a huge scoring threat," Phillips said. "There won't be many defenders that are capable of shutting her down, and we need her to be dominant on that end of the field."
The Stags called timeout and were able to get the draw control. They controlled the ball in the Yale end for most of the final seconds, but just when it appeared time was about to run out on them attacker Erin Rigby fed midfielder Kylee Martin for a sidearm shot that found its way through traffic in front of the net to tie the game at 10 with only 5.4 seconds on the clock.
Neither team was able to get a shot off in the first three-minute overtime half, as turnovers kept both offenses at bay. Fairfield got the draw to start the second three-minute overtime half, but Warden came up with the biggest of her three caused turnovers on the day and the Bulldogs set up on offense.
Fragapane, the Yale captain, once again set up a big goal, driving before feeding Block for the game-winner.
"That's a senior leader," said Phillips. "Taylor is sometimes overlooked, because she does all the little things that create opportunities for other people to score. She really showed her composure in a big situation today."
Because the first overtime is not sudden victory, the Bulldogs still had to sweat out the final 85 seconds. Warden got the draw control but the Stags created a turnover. Warden answered back by knocking the ball loose near the Yale net, and Quackenbush emerged from the scrum with possession. The Bulldogs cleared it but lost the ball out of bounds at the other end of the field, giving Fairfield one last chance with 17 seconds left. This time Fragapane caused a turnover and Warden scooped up the ground ball to clinch it.
Yale improves to 11-0 all-time against Fairfield. The Bulldogs visit JMU Saturday at 1:00 p.m.
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (firstname.lastname@example.org), Yale Sports Publicity