Bulldogs Come Up with Big Ivy League Win as Part of Breast Cancer Awareness and Fundraising Day
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Even with a spot in the inaugural Ivy League tournament still within reach, the Yale women's lacrosse team took the field Saturday at Reese Stadium vs. Columbia with a heavy dose of perspective about what really mattered. The Bulldogs wore pink uniforms as part of Under Armour's Power in Pink breast cancer awareness and fundraising initiative, and they paid tribute to members of the Yale women's lacrosse family impacted by cancer in a ceremony before the game. They then went out and played some inspired lacrosse, beating Columbia 12-4 to keep their chances for a spot in the Ivy tournament intact.
“This is about more than just lacrosse,” said Anne Phillips, Yale's Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Women's Lacrosse. “We have had a lot of people on our team affected by cancer -- people who have successfully fought it and people who are currently fighting it.”
The Bulldogs have gotten plenty of perspective on cancer in recent weeks. This past Tuesday they had their official adoption ceremony for Alanna, a local sixth grader being treated for a brain tumor at Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven. The team adopted her through the nationwide Friends of Jaclyn program that pairs college teams with pediatric cancer patients to serve as a support group. Alanna was scheduled to be recognized at Saturday's game in addition to the Power in Pink breast cancer honorees, but after a recent chemotherapy session she was too ill to attend.
“By adopting Alanna, we understand that we can be more than just a lacrosse team,” Phillips said. “We can be a great support network, and maybe a very positive distraction for those that are battling the disease.”
Without Alanna in her usual spot with the team on the sideline, the Bulldogs did their best to make sure they had good news to deliver to her after the game.
“To see how positive she is during what she has to go through is incredible,” Phillips said. “She has been an inspiration to the team.”
Yale seized control with a 4-0 run to start the game, including a pair of quick scores three minutes in. After a free position goal by junior midfielder Kaitlyn Flatley, freshman midfielder Kristen Chapman grabbed the draw control and drove in for a goal of her own 13 seconds later.
Two minutes after that, sophomore attacker Caroline Crow set up Yale's attack by scooping up a ground ball after a Columbia turnover, then burying a feed from behind the cage by junior attacker Myra Trivellas. Junior midfielder Logan Greer scored on a free position attempt to make it four goals in a row for Yale, prompting a Columbia timeout at 16:59.
With sophomore goalkeeper Whitney Quackenbush anchoring the defense, it looked for a while as if the Bulldogs could close the half with a shutout still intact. But attacker Gabrielle Geronimos' long-distance shot eluded Quackenbush at the 8:56 mark to bring Columbia within 4-1. The Bulldogs did not give the Lions any breathing room after that, however, as goals by senior attacker Jessica Sturgill and Chapman extended the Yale lead. Quackenbush closed the half on a high note, stuffing a point-blank shot by Geronimos.
Yale (6-7, 3-3 Ivy League) kept the run going to start the second half, scoring the first three goals. Freshman midfielder Devon Rhodes had two, including a perfectly executed play where Sturgill drew the attention of the defense to free Rhodes up in front for her 26th goal of the year. Chapman then caused a Columbia turnover, and Flatley finished off the play with her 20th goal of the year. Flatley has now scored at least two goals in each of the last eight games.
Columbia (5-7, 0-6 Ivy League) got a goal from midfielder Olivia Mann with 21:20 left to stop Yale's run. The Lions had a chance to start piecing together a run of their own when Geronimos got a free position shot a minute later, but Quackenbush made the save -- part of a remarkable day in which she held the Lions to an 0-for-5 performance on free positions.
Goals by Crow and Greer extended Yale's lead to 11-2. After attacker Kacie Johnson scored for Columbia, freshman midfielder Kelsea Smith became the seventh and final Bulldog to score when she got a goal with 2:21 to play.
“We're trying to spread things around offensively, and develop confidence in all those players,” Phillips said. “When you have lopsided scoring and are counting on one person, you're easily shut down. Today, the patience and discipline we have tried to develop through the course of the season showed. Even when shots weren't dropping, we still ran the offense.”
On a day that was all about bringing the Yale women's lacrosse family closer together, the Bulldogs also worked hard to get as many people as possible onto the field -- 26 players saw action. That included the season debut for senior attacker Lindsey DeMarco and the first career game for sophomore midfielder Kelsey Merghart. Merghart also happened to be one part of the Power in Pink pregame ceremony, which honored her mother Debbie as a survivor.
“Today there were a lot of players that participated in a positive way,” Phillips said. “Columbia took some players out of our offense, and other people had to step up. They did.”
Johnson scored for Columbia with 1:35 left to make the final 12-4. Quackenbush finished with 12 saves, while the Lions' Karlee Blank made nine. Rhodes led all scorers with three points, adding three draw controls. Senior defender Michele Fiorentino had a game-high three caused turnovers and tied Chapman for the team high in ground balls with three.
Yale's win keeps the Bulldogs in position to claim one of the four spots in the inaugural Ivy League tournament Apr. 30-May 2, which will determine which team gets the league's automatic berth in the NCAA tournament. A win in the regular season finale at Cornell next Sunday guarantees the Bulldogs a spot. The results of Saturday's other Ivy games (including Harvard's win over Princeton and Penn's win over Dartmouth) mean Yale could finish as high as tied for second.
“We're 13 games into the season, and we're still in the hunt for a playoff spot,” Phillips said. “That was one of our goals. It's coming down to the final weekend, and we're still right there.”
Before getting to that crucial game at Cornell, Yale's final weekend starts with a chance to knock off a nationally ranked opponent. No. 14 Georgetown comes to Reese Stadium next Friday night at 7 p.m.
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (email@example.com), Yale Sports Publicity
Video Highlights by David Dikranian: