Bulldogs Play Ball Control to Earn 8-7 Win vs. Lehigh

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Nicole Daniggelis. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Daniggelis Gets 10 Draw Controls and Seven Points

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Battling the cold, rainy weather and a hot Lehigh goalie, the Yale women's lacrosse team came away with an 8-7 win Sunday afternoon at Reese Stadium. The Bulldogs jumped out to an early 5-1 lead, then held off a Mountain Hawks comeback thanks in large part to their ability to control the ball. In addition to winning 11 of 17 draw controls -- including 10 by sophomore attacker Nicole Daniggelis, who also scored six goals -- the Bulldogs committed only six turnovers. That was their best turnover total since committing just five turnovers in a 17-13 win vs. Harvard Apr. 3, 2010.

Yale (7-3, 1-2 Ivy League), which was playing its third game in five days, has now won two in a row after snapping a three-game losing skid. Sunday's win came despite the best efforts of Lehigh goalkeeper Alex Fitzpatrick, who made 12 saves -- the second-most saves against the Bulldogs this season by an opposing goalie.

"We played well in the very beginning of the game," said Anne Phillips, Yale's Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Women's Lacrosse. "That's the best goalie we have faced all year. So while our defense only gave up seven, as their goalie was making save after save it became obvious we needed to possess the ball and make sure we got really good looks."

Yale's quick start included five goals in the first 23 minutes by Daniggelis. The Mountain Hawks are likely quite tired of seeing her by now, as she had four goals and an Ivy League-record 15 draw controls in the Bulldogs' 16-8 win at Lehigh last year.

"Nicole shot well," said Phillips. "She was just dominant on the draw, and she can handle the pressure. We knew that the draw control was going to be an important part of this game. Lehigh did not have anybody that could neutralize her ability to score and get the draws."

Yale's 5-1 run to open the game also included a pair of assists for senior attacker Jen DeVito, who now has 25 assists for the year -- the seventh-best single season total in school history. She also has 50 career assists, tied for eighth all-time at Yale with All-American Miles Whitman '04. She leads the Ivy League in points this year with 40, one more than Daniggelis.

Lehigh (5-6, 2-2 Patriot League) answered by scoring three times in a span of less than five minutes late in the first half to pull within one. But Yale called timeout after the fourth Lehigh goal, and senior midfielder Julie Mongan got the draw control. She sent the ball ahead to junior attacker Kerri Fleishhacker, who quickly got it to Daniggelis inside the 8-meter fan. Daniggelis drew a foul, then used the free position attempt to pass to a wide-open DeVito at the far post. DeVito deposited her 15th goal of the year to increase Yale's cushion to 6-4.

After a ground ball by junior midfielder Erin Magnuson, Fleishhacker set up junior midfielder Christina Doherty for a goal with 19.5 seconds left before halftime, and the Bulldogs went into the break up 7-4.

The Mountain Hawks scored the first goal of the second half, but after another great save by Fitzpatrick Daniggelis earned a free position attempt and converted it into her sixth goal of the game (and 29th of the season).

With 23:12 to play, the Bulldogs had a golden opportunity to extend their lead when a pair of yellow cards on Lehigh gave Yale a two-man advantage. But a turnover by the Bulldogs enabled the Mountain Hawks to kill off those penalties, and with 14:02 to play midfielder Allison LaBeau scored to pull Lehigh within two.

After LaBeau scored again with 7:10 left, a foul on Yale gave the draw control to the Mountain Hawks. That was when senior goalkeeper Erin McMullan came up with the biggest of her five saves on the day, denying midfielder Kendall Garden's attempt at the game-tying goal.

With Fitzpatrick -- who entered the week ninth in the country in save percentage -- clearly on her game, the Bulldogs adjusted their plan of attack accordingly. After McMullan's save with just over five minutes to play, Yale made sure the Mountain Hawks would have no chance to regain possession and set up on offense. With the ball in Lehigh territory following a Yale timeout with 90 seconds left, the Bulldogs' seven players on offense -- Daniggelis, DeVito, Doherty, Magnuson, Mongan, junior midfielder Cathryn Avallone and freshman attacker Tess McEvoy -- kept control of the ball right up until the final seconds, when Doherty hit the post with a shot. Lehigh got the ground ball but could do nothing with it as the final horn sounded.

Yale wound up with just one turnover in the second half.

"Our stick skills were there," said Phillips. "When the shots weren't dropping, we used our stick skills to maintain possession and kill the clock. That's something that we practiced, and we executed it perfectly."

In addition to winning the draw control battle, Yale also had an 11-10 edge in ground balls. Freshman defenders Emily Markham and Victoria Moore tied for the team lead with two each.

Yale now has its best record after 10 games (7-3) since the 2008 team also started 7-3. The Bulldogs travel to Princeton for an Ivy League game Saturday at 1:00 p.m.

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

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