April 18, 2009

Four Comebacks Not Enough; No. 17/18 Cornell Edges Yale 7-6

April 18, 2009

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Four times in Saturday's game against No. 17/18 Cornell on Senior Day at Reese Stadium, Yale rallied to tie the game after trailing. But the Bulldogs were never able to take the lead, and after the fourth time they did not have any more comebacks left in them. Big Red midfielder Jessica Wiegand scored the decisive goal with 4:42 to play in a 7-6 Cornell victory. The loss spoiled an otherwise strong effort by the Bulldogs on Senior Day, the last home game of the season.

After the pregame ceremonies honoring the two seniors -- midfielders Taylor Fragapane and Jenn Warden -- the Bulldogs got off to a good start. Fragapane got the opening draw control, and Warden scored at 28:18. But Cornell scored the next two goals, and the Bulldogs would spend the rest of the day chasing the Big Red. Warden tied the game 2-2, spinning off her defender at the 23:12 mark for her 37th goal of the year, but Cornell went back ahead on a free position goal by midfielder Katie Kirk at 18:39.

The Bulldogs showed patience on offense all day long, and that also helped the defense. This marked just the third time this season that Cornell was held to seven or fewer goals in a game. After working several minutes off the clock, the Bulldogs tied the game at 3-3 when sophomore midfielder Ariana Papier drew a foul right next to the Cornell goal, then passed to junior attacker Jessica Sturgill on the restart for a goal at 10:24.

"We didn't want to run and gun," Warden said of Yale's tempo control. "We wanted to stop their midfield transition, and we were pretty successful at that."

Yale (5-9, 1-5 Ivy League) continued to control the pace of the game, and was looking for the final shot of the half after getting the ball with two minutes remaining. But a turnover with a minute to play enabled Cornell to take the ball down the field and get a goal from Kirk, who scooped up a loose ball in front of the cage and fired one in with only eight seconds left on the clock. Cornell took a 4-3 lead into halftime.

Cornell (8-5, 3-3 Ivy League) had a pair of golden chances to extend its lead at the start of the second half, but freshman goalkeeper Whitney Quackenbush turned aside a pair of free position shots in the first four minutes. She would finish with eight saves, limiting the Big Red to a 3-for-7 performance on free positions.

Yale tied the game 4-4 thanks to another goal from Sturgill, who got a step on her defender behind the cage and put in her 23rd goal of the year.

Quackenbush stopped another free position shot a minute later, but the Big Red caught Yale in transition shortly after that. The speedy Wiegand got the ball to midfielder Shannon McHugh for a goal at 21:25 that gave Cornell a 5-4 lead.

Neither team had led by more than a goal at that point in the game, but Cornell finally got some breathing room with a tally by attacker Halsey Diakow at 14:08. It came on a free position, as the Big Red's ability to drive to the goal and draw fouls finally paid dividends.

The Bulldogs called timeout, and after a save by Quackenbush on a free position shot by attacker/midfielder Olivia Knotts Yale started another comeback. Warden was fouled as she split a double-team just outside the 8-meter fan, and on the restart she quickly got the ball to junior attacker Jenna Block for a goal to bring the Bulldogs within 6-5. That prompted a Cornell timeout.

The Big Red got the draw, but turned the ball over. That enabled Block, Sturgill and Papier to set up to the right side of Cornell keeper Kristen Reese, cycling the ball to each other until Papier finally found an opening. She took a feed from Block and slipped a low shot past Reese to tie the game 6-6 with 5:22 to play.

But Cornell got the next draw control -- the Big Red won all seven draws of the second half -- and that enabled Wiegand to notch the game-winner. Reese made a save on a free position shot by Fragapane with 3:40 to play, then stopped a bouncing shot by Sturgill with 2:30 left. After sophomore defender Fielding Kidd came up with a big ground ball with less than two minutes to play, the Bulldogs turned the ball over. With Quackenbush ranging far out of the cage as Yale pressured every Cornell player, the Bulldogs momentarily got the ball back in the final minute but turned it over again, enabling the Big Red to run out the clock with the ball deep in Yale territory.

"On Senior Day you always want to come out with a win," Warden said. "But this was still a good, solid, team effort. Taylor and I see that's the legacy we leave. The team did a lot of things right today. In the end, it isn't so much about the final score, it's about the effort you put forth. The team showed up to play today."

On the emotional day, it was fitting that Warden contributed her usual variety of stats: two goals, an assist, three ground balls, a draw control and three caused turnovers. But she was also quick to give credit to her classmate and friend Fragapane, the team captain whose contributions all year long haven't always shown up in the box score.

"She's been the rock," Warden said. "She's the mediator, the one who keeps us in line and also pushes us. The team wouldn't be the same without her. Her role is intangible but vital."

The Bulldogs still have two road games left on the schedule. After 10 days off as classes end and reading period begins, Yale is back in action Apr. 29 at Brown and then travels to No. 6/7 Georgetown on May 2 to end the season.

And while Warden looked back on four years at Yale as Senior Day concluded, she also looked forward to the last two games and beyond. Just two years ago at this time, Yale was finishing off its regular season with a 13-8 win over Cornell -- Fragapane had four goals -- that helped earn the team a berth in the NCAA Tournament. The signs of progress that the team has made in its first season under Anne Phillips, Yale's Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Women's Lacrosse, include wins in three of the last five games after a 2-7 start. Warden sees the program returning to national prominence shortly.

"It's going to be a quick turnaround," Warden said. "I foresee this team being big in the Ivies and making regular appearances in the NCAA Tournament soon. I'm really excited to see what Anne can do."

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