May 4, 2009
NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Junior defender Claire Eliasberg (San Diego, Calif.) has been elected Yale's 2009-10 women's lacrosse captain after a team vote held Monday morning at Ray Tompkins House. The Bulldogs also announced their team award winners, selecting senior midfielder Jenn Warden (Edgemont, Pa.) as Most Valuable Player. Eliasberg won the Gib Holgate Award and sophomore defender Augusta Hixon (Cambridge, Mass.) was named Most Improved Player.
While honoring players for the past season, the Bulldogs were also looking to set the tone for next season with their award selections. They did that by recognizing many players whose contributions could not be measured by statistics alone, and Eliasberg's selection as captain exemplifies that ideal. Hard-working and humble, Eliasberg has taken an unconventional path to becoming the 35th captain in Yale women's lacrosse history. Her high school, La Jolla Country Day, did not even have a lacrosse team until Eliasberg's senior season. She thus arrived at Yale unrecruited, having played only one season of high school lacrosse, and appeared in just five games for the Bulldogs as a freshman in 2007.
But Eliasberg, who played four years of soccer in high school and was co-captain of that team twice, learned her new sport quickly. She emerged as one of Yale's most reliable defenders as a sophomore, playing in 14 games and starting the final 11 to earn the Most Improved Player award. This past year she started all 16 games and had a career-high 12 ground balls. She also scored her first career goal in Yale's 18-4 win over Wagner. Eliasberg has committed only eight turnovers in her 35-game career.
"I give all the credit to the teammates I have had," Eliasberg said. "Basically, everything I know about lacrosse, and leadership, I have learned from watching and playing with them. Here at Yale I have had the opportunity to play with some of the best players in the history of the program. I give them the credit for teaching me and helping me to get better."
With no senior defenders on the roster, Eliasberg was one of the players who stepped up to lead a relatively young Yale defense that was playing in front of a freshman goalkeeper, Whitney Quackenbush (Manhasset, N.Y.). The Bulldogs held seven of their final nine opponents to eight or fewer goals, and are currently ranked 14th in the country in scoring defense (9.19 goals per game). Overall, Yale held its opponent below its season goals-per-game average 14 times in 16 games.
One of those 14 times was also one of the defining moments of Eliasberg's career -- earlier this season when Yale hosted its long-time Ivy League rival, then-No. 19 Dartmouth, at Reese Stadium.
"Claire had a key matchup for us in the Dartmouth game," said Anne Phillips, Yale's Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Women's Lacrosse. "She had been up all night the night before with food poisoning. She was dehydrated, and had been in the hospital while we were warming up right before the game. She came on to the field 45 minutes before the game started, went out there and handled her matchup because she knew how important it was for our team -- we didn't have another player that could fill her role. She summoned all of her mental and physical toughness and played that game as if she hadn't been sick all night. That was a testament to her leadership."
Phillips points to Eliasberg's work to rise up the depth chart as an example of the approach she expects from each and every player.
"The fact that Claire only played sparingly as a freshman but is now a key starting defender for us is proof that if you are willing to work hard and you're coachable, you can be successful," Phillips said. "Claire is one of the hardest workers on the team, and one of the most committed. She's also one who takes losing very hard. When you have a captain like that, I'm confident that her leadership will have an immediate impact."
While this year's roster included only two seniors, Eliasberg will benefit from having six classmates leading along with her next season -- attacker Jenna Block (Owings Mills, Md.), midfielder Sarah David (New Haven, Conn.), attacker/midfielder Lindsey DeMarco (Marlboro, N.J.), defender Michele Fiorentino (Berwyn, Pa.), midfielder Natalie Reid (Ellicott City, Md.) and attacker Jessica Sturgill (Ellicott City, Md.).
"All seven of us have distinct leadership qualities," Eliasberg said. "Truly, any one of us could have been captain. That is what makes me so excited for next season."
The rising seniors represent the last link to the 2007 Yale team that, after starting the season 4-3, won nine games in a row to earn an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament and a No. 11 national ranking. Eliasberg points to the work the Class of 2007 did that year as having a lasting impact on the Class of 2010.
"[2007 captain] Lindsay Levin and that whole senior class were so incredible," Eliasberg said. "My class really looked up to them. They were tight-knit as a group and really worked together."
The 2009-10 captaincy was not the only honor Eliasberg received Monday. Her teammates also voted for her to receive the Holgate Award, which is given to the player whose dedication to the ideals of Yale and to the success of women's lacrosse measure up to the standards set by James G. "Gib" Holgate, a member of the Yale athletic administration from 1954 to 1985.
Eliasberg is a history of science/history of medicine major in Trumbull College and comes from a family full of Yale connections. Her parents, John and Ginger, are both 1981 Yale graduates and her mother swam for the Bulldogs. Her cousin Brendan Woo '08 also swam for Yale, and her cousin Lauren Woo is currently a senior. Eliasberg's brother, Jake, will be a freshman at Yale next year.
Eliasberg will spend this summer in New Haven working in a biomedical engineering lab. She eventually plans to go to medical school.
Eliasberg credited the departing captain, midfielder Taylor Fragapane (Cockeysville, Md.), and Warden for the work they did as the only two seniors on the roster while Yale transitioned to its new coaching staff.
"Taylor and Jenn have done so much for this team," Eliasberg said. "They led us through a lot of adversity."
Warden earned the MVP award by concluding her career in memorable fashion, leading Yale in goals (43, a career high and tied for third in the Ivy League), points (51, a career high and tied for fifth in the Ivy League), ground balls (34), caused turnovers (31, a career high and second in the Ivy League) and draw controls (29). She scored a goal in every game, and scored two or more goals in each of the last seven games. She finished sixth on Yale's career goals list (118), seventh on Yale's career points list (156) and tied for 11th on Yale's career assists list (38). She is a two-time second team All-Ivy League and second team IWLCA All-Northeast Region selection.
"Jenn was clearly the most valuable player, not just as a statistical leader but also as someone who worked hard against her teammates in practice to try to make them better," said Phillips. "Her intensity in practice and in games was a quality that we needed, and she accepted that responsibility. That contributed not just to the success of this year's team, but also to making the underclassmen better to help future Yale teams."
Warden and Fragapane led Yale to 38 victories (14 Ivy League victories) and an NCAA Tournament appearance in their tenure.
Warden is a history major in Saybrook College. Prior to Yale she attended Lawrenceville.
As this year's Most Improved Player, Hixon followed a career path similar to Eliasberg's, utilizing hard work to earn her spot on the field as one of the team's top defenders. After appearing in five games as a freshman, she appeared in all 16 games this season and started 15. She was seventh on the team with 19 ground balls while also contributing 11 caused turnovers and five draw controls.
"One of the greatest qualities a player can have is a willingness to look at her weaknesses and work tirelessly to turn them into strengths," Phillips said. "Augusta became a critical starter for this team after not playing very much as a freshman. She exemplifies how important commitment and work ethic are to changing your role on the team."
Hixon is a resident of Berkeley College. Prior to Yale she attended Buckingham Browne & Nichols.
The 2009-10 Bulldogs are scheduled to be on the field for the first time on Oct. 24, when they host a fall scrimmage at Reese Stadium. Other upcoming events for the program include the 2009 Yale Lacrosse Association Golf Outing on June 1.
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (firstname.lastname@example.org), Yale Sports Publicity