W. lacrosse opens Ivy season with a win

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Monday, March 16, 2009

The women’s lacrosse team beat Harvard, 12-8, in its Ivy League opener Saturday on Berylson Family Fields home turf, exorcising the demons of four straight losses to the Crimson.

“We’ve lost by one goal (to Harvard) for the last two years, so to come out and win by a few was a huge testament to how far we’ve come as a program and how hard our team works,” said Head Coach Keely McDonald ’00.

After enduring a 14-13 loss in Cambridge the previous season, the win was especially sweet for the seniors, said Jesse Nunn ’09.

“It’s something we definitely wanted to do,” she said. “Last year kind of left a bad taste in our mouth, so getting back out there and getting a win over them today was great.”

Nunn, who had missed the previous two games because of an injury, returned to lead eight Brown scorers with four goals and an assist.

“She’s a senior leader for us,” McDonald said. “It was really nice to have her back.”

The Bears (3-2, 1-0 Ivy) dominated the Crimson (2-3, 0-1) over the first 21 minutes. Nunn got Bruno off to a fast start, striking just 1:11 into the game to give her team a lead it would never relinquish.

Kelly Robinson ’09 picked off a Harvard pass and took the ball right to the net 1:22 later. After Katelyn Caro ’12 scored twice in a row, Brown had a commanding 4-0 lead just 8:07 into the game.

McDonald credited her team’s fast start to the players’ focus and fortitude.

“They knew it was going to be a bloodbath,” she said. “They knew they had to be ready, and I think they took that to heart and went after the ground balls and the draws and put us ahead early, which I think really made the game for us.”

Jess Halpern finally put the Crimson on the board with one of her three goals, but Nunn answered just 37 seconds later off a beautiful pass from Molly McCarthy ’10, one of her three assists.

The game was scoreless for 9:28 before Alexa Caldwell ’11 increased Bruno’s lead to 6-1 on a free position shot. When Nunn notched her third goal of the game just 1:18 later, the rout appeared to be on. The Bears had built a 7-1 lead with 9:12 still remaining before halftime.

“Our focus (was) to take care of the ball on the attack (and) stay composed,” Nunn said. “Our midfield transition was great. Another thing we also focused on was the ride, our defensive ride out in transition. I think we did a really good job of that and caused a lot of turnovers.”

But the Crimson came roaring back with five straight goals, as the Brown offense succumbed to tighter Crimson defense around the net to suffer through a scoreless stretch of 15:03.

Halpern scored two of Harvard’s three goals in the waning minutes of the first half to cut the deficit to three heading into halftime. After Sarah Bancroft struck 1:31 into the second half, Kaitlin Martin scored on a free position shot 39 seconds later to cut Brown’s lead to 7-6.

The momentum appeared to be squarely on the side of the Crimson, but Nunn said the Bears were not fazed by Harvard’s run.

“There’s going to be ups and downs, (but) I think we responded to that really well,” she said. “We kept our composure, and we were really confident throughout the whole game that we knew we could take it, so it was all right.”

The Bears never allowed the Crimson to tie the score, answering each time Harvard scored. Bethany Buzzell ’09 extended the lead to 8-6 on a free position shot 5:51 into the second half. Martin again cut the lead to one goal on a free position shot 2:35 later, but Nunn answered 1:17 later to give Brown a 9-7 lead.

Bancroft again cut the lead to one goal on a free position shot 1:38 later, but the Crimson would not score again for the final 18:39 of the game.

Brown took a 10-8 lead with 13:29 remaining when Kaela McGilloway ’12 scored off a feed from Buzzell.

Isabel Harvey ’10 then made the most important of her eight saves, stopping Sara Flood’s free position shot with just over 11 minutes remaining to preserve Brown’s two-goal lead.

The Bears were able to milk the clock with patient offense for much of the remainder of the game. Paris Waterman ’11 and co-captain Lauren Vitkus ’09 tacked on goals with 6:24 and 29 seconds left, respectively, to produce the 12-8 final score.

Brown outshot Harvard, 35-19. The Bears were also faster – holding a 25-17 advantage in ground balls – and smoother with the ball, committing only 11 turnovers to the Crimson’s 24.

Val Sherry ’09 led the Bears with three caused turnovers and added three ground balls, while Robinson secured five ground balls and Vitkus had four. Co-captain Noelle DiGioia ’09 won four draw controls.

The Bears will play three games over spring break, traveling to Storrs, Conn., to face UConn (0-7) on Saturday. They will then host Oregon (4-2) next Tuesday and face Dartmouth (2-2) March 28 in Hanover, N.H. McDonald said the team would use the full week of practices ahead to focus on “getting back to the basics,” a prospect Nunn said the team welcomes.

“We’ve seen how well we can play,” Nunn said. “I think everyone’s just excited to get out there on Monday and get practicing again.”

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