NEW HAVEN, Conn. – In a highly competitive league like the Ivy League, a handful of goals can sometimes make the difference in a season. A year ago the Yale women's lacrosse team was 1-3 in league games decided by two goals or less. So far this season, those close losses have been replaced by close wins -- and as a result the Bulldogs are 2-0 in the league and in first place. The latest win came Saturday at Reese Stadium, 19-17 vs. Brown. With the victory, Yale is 6-1 overall and off to its best start since starting the 2002 season 7-1.
Yale (6-1, 2-0 Ivy League) had won its first Ivy League game two weeks earlier, edging Harvard 16-15 in overtime at Reese. Saturday's game vs. Brown was similarly full of suspense, as neither team ever led by more than four goals and neither team scored more than two goals in a row during the second half.
The Bulldogs fell behind early but reeled off the game's longest run of consecutive goals -- five -- midway through the first half to take an 8-5 lead. That stretch included the second and third goals of the day for first-year midfielder Sam Higgins, who would finish with four goals and two assists.
Brown (4-3, 0-2 Ivy League) answered with a run of its own, four goals, to take a 9-8 lead. But after a free position goal by first-year midfielder Olivia Markert tied the game, junior attacker Izzy Nixon scored twice in 35 seconds. On a day where she also shined as usual on draw controls (she won 12), Nixon would go on to contribute five goals.
"She has worked really hard on her offense," said Erica LaGrow, Yale's Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Women's Lacrosse. "We prepped her this week for a lot of those crease dodges."
Markert then added another to give Yale a 12-9 lead. After a buzzer-beating goal by Brown, the Bulldogs took a 12-10 lead into the second half.
Yale never surrendered that lead, but Brown -- which had lost its Ivy opener to Princeton 12-10 -- stayed close throughout. Trailing 16-14, the Bears could have closed to within one midway through the second, but they incurred a yellow card for a dangerous shot on one possession and then had a free position shot denied by Yale senior goalkeeper Sydney Marks with 12 minutes left.
Still, the game came down to the final minutes. After Brown got within one, 17-16 with 4:27 left, Nixon curled around the defense and side armed in her fifth goal. Brown answered with a goal from attacker Hafsa Moinuddin with 2:44 to play. After a Yale turnover the Bears had a chance to tie the game in the final minutes but committed a crease violation. Higgins then earned a free position and deposited an insurance goal with 35 seconds to play for the 19-17 final.
That represents the most goals Yale has scored since beating Marist 19-10 Feb. 28, 2017. Yale shot .543 and eight players had at least one point, led by Higgins (4-2-6) and senior midfielder Emily Granger (4-2-6). Nixon had five points on five goals, while Markert, sophomore midfielder Barrett Carlson and first-year attacker Kayla Duperrouzel had two points on two goals each. Senior attacker Kiwi Comizio and sophomore midfielder Vanessa Yu each had one assist.
"We share the ball really well; we're a selfless team," said LaGrow. "Any day, any given person could step up. We have a lot of people on the attacking end who can score."
Defensively the Bulldogs managed to hold Brown midfielder Caroline Zaffino -- who came into the game seventh in the league in goals per game at 3.00 -- to one goal. Junior defender Eliot Schulte had a match-up on her.
"Eliot did an excellent job stopping her cuts and drives," said LaGrow.
Zaffino was also averaging 6.20 draw controls per game, third in the league, but was limited to three Saturday. In addition to Nixon's 12 draws, Yale got eight from senior midfielder Madeleine Gramigna en route to claiming a 27-10 advantage on the draws. The Bulldogs were 12-for-13 on clears.
Marks finished with seven saves. Yale hosts No. 3 Boston College Tuesday at 1:00 p.m.
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (firstname.lastname@example.org), Yale Sports Publicity