NEW HAVEN, Conn. – It was a remarkable win in and of itself for the Yale women's lacrosse team Saturday night at Reese Stadium -- but it was made even more remarkable by what the Bulldogs had done earlier in the day. Their 15-12 triumph over No. 19 Stanford had all the hallmarks of a signature moment for the program: record-setting performances, a big crowd and a thrilling finish. But add on the fact that it came on the heels of another full game just a few hours earlier -- just Yale's second doubleheader in 37 years -- and you have the stuff that legends are made of.
When the Bulldogs scheduled Saturday's doubleheader months ago, they likely could not have envisioned just how the day would play out. It started smoothly enough, despite near-freezing temperatures and a blustery wind, with a 17-5 win against Sacred Heart in which 11 different players scored goals. That game ended shortly before 2:00 p.m., giving the Bulldogs just about four hours to turn around and face one of the toughest opponents on their schedule.
"It was a challenging day, and our players rose to the occasion," said Erica LaGrow, Yale's Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Women's Lacrosse. "All year long we have been emphasizing taking it one game at a time, one offensive set at a time. Our players really believed in that."
Indeed, to explain the success in the second game LaGrow started by giving credit to some of the players who came up big in the first game, such as sophomore midfielder Amanda Bosland (one goal and three assists), freshman midfielder Hannah Logan (first career hat trick) and sophomore goalkeeper Allie Carrigan (five saves in the second half). Thanks to those efforts, the Bulldogs had plenty of momentum heading into the second game of the twin bill -- and it showed immediately.
Yale (7-5, 1-2 Ivy League) jumped out to a 5-1 lead against a Cardinal team that had won six games in a row, including a 10-9 win at Yale's archrival Harvard this past Tuesday. The Bulldogs did so thanks to some hot shooting (5-for-6) and a decisive edge on the draws. They won five in a row at one point early on, with four by sophomore attacker Izzy Nixon. She would finish with a career-high 11.
"We want to play our game and at our pace," said LaGrow. "Izzy sparks that on the draw. That was critical in allowing us those opportunities. It is also a credit to the job [assistant coach] Erika Eipp does in working on draw controls."
But Stanford, ranked sixth in the nation in scoring offense at more than 15 goals per game, eventually responded with a four-goal run to tie the score 5-5.
The game had reached an early turning point, and the Bulldogs had an answer. En route to a record-setting day of her own, senior attacker Hope Hanley set up junior midfielder Emily Granger for the go-ahead goal. Then, after Stanford evened the score again, Yale went back ahead on a goal by junior midfielder Madeleine Gramigna (also assisted by Hanley).
Hanley scored on a free position shot with four minutes to go, and junior goalkeeper Sydney Marks denied a Stanford free position with less than 10 seconds left, to send Yale into the half with an 8-6 lead.
En route to a four-goal game, junior attacker Kiwi Comizio scored in the first minute of the second half (assisted by Hanley) to make it 9-6, but Stanford once again had a response. Three Cardinal goals in a span of less than three minutes left the score knotted 9-9, and the Bulldogs found themselves at a crossroads.
This time it was Marks who made the first big play, turning aside a free position shot and denying Stanford the chance to take its first lead of the game. Less than two minutes later, Hanley set up Comizio for the go-ahead goal at 21:41.
Despite a yellow card on Stanford (7-3, 1-0 MPSF), the Cardinal still managed to tie the game again, as attacker Elizabeth Cusick scored in transition with 19:20 remaining.
That set up a dramatic finish. First, the Cardinal had another chance to take the lead on a free position -- but senior defender Ashley Perselay helped force the shot wide. Then, after a McEvoy shot hit the pipe with 17 minutes left, Perselay caused a Stanford turnover and Hanley set up Gramigna for the go-ahead goal at 15:13.
It was a memorable goal for Gramigna, who as a midfielder is not typically the focal point of Yale's attack.
With the lead in hand, the Bulldogs kept up the pressure. The Cardinal had resorted to face guarding Comizio, so she spent many of the waning moments of the contest all the way out at the restraining line keeping her defender out of the mix. Yale still had plenty of other weapons to utilize -- starting with senior attacker Tess McEvoy, Yale's captain, who buried a free position shot at 12:32 to extend the lead to 12-10. Then, after Marks delivered a big save on a shot by midfielder Dillon Schoen, Nixon scored off a Hanley assist to make it 13-10 with 8:50 to go.
Nixon then won another draw, enabling the Bulldogs to start working the clock. Stanford did not get another shot until 5:43, when Cusick scored to pull the Cardinal within two. But Nixon won the draw, and McEvoy then made some history of her own by becoming just the 14th player in Yale history with 100 career goals. Fittingly, her milestone tally came off an assist from her classmate Hanley. Yale's lead was 14-11 with 4:25 to play.
"Tess is a really dynamic player and obviously can score goals," said LaGrow. "But she is also a great leader on the offensive end. She creates opportunities. Everything she's got, she's earned."
Schoen kept Stanford's hopes alive by scoring with 3:27 left, but Marks made a pair of saves -- the last on a free position shot with 2:17 to play -- to effectively end any chance of a Cardinal rally. She finished with 15 saves, a season high.
"Sydney really anchored the defense today," said LaGrow. "She works really hard, watches a lot of film and always makes the necessary changes. That showed today."
Hanley delivered the final dagger, scoring on an improbable shot in heavy traffic that found its way past Stanford goalie Allie DaCar with 48.7 seconds left.
That capped an 11-point day for Hanley, who somehow topped her 10-point effort from earlier in this season against Quinnipiac. The only record of a player with that many points in a game for Yale is an 11-goal game by Tracy Ball '81 at Cornell Apr. 5, 1980. Hanley's eight assists Saturday night were the most by a Yale player since Jenna Block '10 also had eight Apr. 1, 2009.
Comizio (four) led the Bulldogs in goals, followed by Hanley and McEvoy (three). Gramigna and Nixon contributed two each, and Granger had one.
By the time the final horn sounded and the Bulldogs rushed the field to celebrate, they had put in the longest day of lacrosse for any Yale team since the last doubleheader -- a sweep of Cal and Monmouth Apr. 17, 2004. Before that, Yale's last twin bill was in 1980.
Preparing for such a day was quite the team effort -- especially considering that in the second game the Bulldogs utilized just one sub, junior attacker Maggie Pizzo.
"Our strength and conditioning coaches, Mike Harris and Thomas Newman, have been working all year to make sure we were ready for this moment," said LaGrow. "I credit them for fully preparing our team -- not just with our fitness level, but also our players' ability to recover in between games."
The game within the game also saw Yale neutralize two of the primary threats in that potent Cardinal offense, attackers Kelsey Murray and Anna Salemo, by deploying senior defenders Emily Markham and Victoria Moore to handle them. Murray and Salemo had 39 goals in Stanford's first nine games, but just one Saturday night. Moore threw in a team-high five ground balls while she was at it.
"Emily and Victoria did excellent jobs on their matches," said LaGrow. "They take their assignments very seriously and study hard. Credit [assistant coach] Colleen Smith, who is very organized and prepared the defense well. The players went out there and executed."
Markham and Moore, along with fellow senior defenders Perselay and Marisa Cresham, continue to be the perfect defensive complement to the work that their classmates Hanley and McEvoy do at the other end of the field.
"The leadership begins with our senior class," said LaGrow. "Our players came out with intensity but were also composed. I am really proud of our team for playing a full 60 -- really a full 120 -- minutes."