Coming off a tough loss against Columbia last week, the women’s lacrosse team looked to reverse the script and secure its first Ivy League victory Saturday against Dartmouth. Despite the cloudy sky and cold weather, the victory was sweet. Brown (6-8, 1-5 Ivy) dominated the majority of the game to secure a convincing 8-5 win over the Big Green (6-8, 2-4).
Bruno’s elimination from Ivy title contention last week did not make this game any less meaningful. In a season when the team has largely measured its success not in terms of wins but rather in its unrelenting effort and determination, the Bears were ready to leave everything on the field.
“Play from your heart. Play with your gut. Play for pride.” These were the final words of Head Coach Keely McDonald ’00 in the pregame huddle before the team took the field.
In a unique and humbling tweak to the pregame, McDonald hung up stories written by women’s lacrosse alums on the walls of the locker room so that the players could read them on game day. According to McDonald, some were about memories from a game against Dartmouth in years past, some discussed what they learned from being a competitor, and others were about player mentality.
“It got us connected to something much bigger than ourselves,” McDonald said. “I think that allowed the players to be hyper-focused for the game in a way that they hadn’t all season long.”
Dartmouth drew first blood, with two quick goals in an attempt to set the tone for the rest of the game. The Big Green netted its first score just a minute into the matchup. Despite a nice save by goalie Victoria Holland ’16 against a free position attempt, Dartmouth junior midfielder Taryn Deck scooped up and flicked in the deflected ground ball.
Then just two minutes later — after securing its first stop of the game — Bruno was unable to move the ball up the field against a strong Dartmouth full-field press. The Bears bobbled a pass and turned the ball over, which resulted in another Dartmouth goal.
But the Bears quickly snapped out of this funk. “What we focused on pregame was being 1-0 every play regardless of the score,” McDonald said.
After traveling the length of the field in a fast break that left the Big Green behind and disorganized, midfielder Jillian Lee ’17 found attacker Rose Mangiarotti ’18 cutting to goal. Mangiarotti collected the ball and calmly netted her 12th goal of the season, putting the Bears on the board.
Momentum seemed to switch, as Brown secured the ensuing draw control, captain Dianne Vitkus ’16 scored again less than a minute after. With the score now 2-2, to the excitement of fans and players alike, the Bears almost instantaneously erased the deficit.
Bruno’s offense did not stop. Rookie phenom Zoe Verni ’19 steamed ahead to score two goals of her own before the end of the first half — one with just one second left on the clock. This closed the first half with a four-goal run by the Bears that put them up 4-2.
But Dartmouth charged into the second half with vengeance, scoring a goal at 22:52 to cut the Bears’ lead in half to just one goal and then slotting in another under a minute later to draw even once again.
Then the action switched to the defensive end. In the ensuing minutes, defensive stops by both teams and numerous changes in possession were the narrative as time wound down. And the game remained tied at four goals apiece.
But Mangiarotti stepped up big for the Bears with a bouncing shot at 18:39 that fooled Dartmouth’s goalie and found its way to the back of the net. The goal — Mangiarotti’s second of the game — ended Brown’s 12-minute scoreless drought and put the Bears back up by one. Shortly after, insurance goals by midfielder Kerianne Hunt ’17 and starter Hafsa Moinuddin ’19 at 11:38 and 9:52, respectively, increased the Bears’ lead to three with the score now 7-4, a valuable cushion for Bruno.
Moinuddin marked the fifth different Brown player to score in the game, a huge leap from the narrative of most other matchups this season, which has pushed offensive productivity almost solely on the shoulders of captain Lauren Toy ’16.
“One of our rules of engagement is that all seven players are a threat,” McDonald said. “We didn’t truly get that until yesterday.”
For the remaining eight minutes, the Bears dominated possession and employed a keep-away scheme to close out the win. It was only icing on the cake when Toy easily put away a free position goal after taking a hard foul from Dartmouth’s frustrated defense.
Dartmouth scored once more at 4:06, but this rally was not enough to escape its sizable deficit. As the clock wound down, the score read 8-5 in favor of the Bears.
In a tough season for Brown, this win against Dartmouth was a definite highlight and a glimpse at what the Bears could do when performing at their best. Luckily for Bruno, the team has a lot of young stars who will carry the mantle for many seasons to come.
“This 2016 group has taught everyone so much. It would have been easy to pack it in after a tough loss to Columbia, but this group is teaching everyone what it means to compete,” McDonald said. “The freshmen and sophomores now know what it takes to win an Ivy-League game. Now it’s in their blood.”
In their final matchup of the season, the Bears will host No. 10 Princeton Saturday at 1 p.m., a game that the team will look to win and end the season on a high note.
But when discussing its preparation for the game, McDonald noted that the team’s mentality is always the same: “The fight of an underdog, but the culture of a champion.”