Big Green season ended early

by Rebecca J. Aledort | 5/29/01 5:00am

It was supposed to be a rebuilding year after the graduation of star starters Jacque Weitzel, Kate Graw, Melissa Frazier and Whitney Hale. But instead, it was a storybook season for '01s Gretchen Bell, Brittany D'Augustine, Suzy Gibbons, Kerry Lenehan, Liz Merritt and Amy Zimmer.

"My coach called this season's experience 'magical,' which I think describes the year beautifully," said Merritt.

The class of 2001 will leave behind their own impressive legacy of four Ivy League crowns, four straight trips to the NCAA playoffs and a 27-1 Ivy League record over four years.

"This season worked out the way it did because never before have I been on or seen a team as unified and balanced as we were this year," commented Lenehan.

Unity was key for the Big Green this season.

"From the staff to the players to the trainer, the unique personalities combined perfectly to form one living and breathing entity," remarked Merritt. "For me the meaning of team has been redefined, taken to a new level."

The Big Green compiled a 13-3 record (6-1 Ivy) this season, and the team got off to a fast start, dominating UNH and BU in the first two games of the season. However, Dartmouth dropped its third game to Ivy League rival, Yale, 13-7, which was the Bulldogs first victory over the Big Green since 1991.

The team bounced back from the loss and went on to win its next 10 games against Columbia, Brown, University of Massachusetts, Cornell, Syracuse, University of Pennsylvania, Penn State, Harvard, Princeton, and UNC.

The Princeton game, which clinched the title for the Big Green and a NCAA playoff berth, was a surprising thrashing of the Tigers, in which Dartmouth dominated, winning 13-5. The game was Princeton's only conference loss of the season.

Dartmouth and Princeton have had an intense rivalry of late, with one or both teams claiming the Ivy Title since 1993. The Tigers have won titles in 1994 and 1996 and shared with Dartmouth in 1997. The Big Green has taken the title in 1995, 1998, 1999 and 2000.

The tenth win against UNC was also Coach Amy Patton's 100th victory in her nine years of coaching at Dartmouth.

However, the 10-game winning streak was snapped by two heart breaking losses to No. 2 Duke and No. 1 Maryland, losing by a goal in each game.

Dartmouth was ranked fourth going into the NCAA tournament, which was the highest ranking for the Big Green since the 1998 season and was the Big Green's fourth straight trip to the NCAA tournament.

In 1998 and 1999, the team advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, and last season, though once ranked second in the nation and having a 10-game winning streak, the injury-ridden Big Green were knocked out of the playoffs by Duke in a 7-6 defeat.

The Big Green easily defeated Penn State 9-7 in the first round, but in the second round, a rematch with Princeton proved to be a stumbling block for Dartmouth.

After beating Princeton so soundly in the regular season, the Big Green ended their season with a loss to Princeton 10-4 at Scully Field. The game extended Princeton's domination of Dartmouth in the post season, improving the Tigers record to 3-0 against the Big Green in the NCAA playoffs.

Princeton fell to Maryland in the semifinals, and in the finals, Maryland barely edged Georgetown 14-13 in a two-overtime thriller. It was Maryland's seventh consecutive title.

However the end of the season has produced a plethora of awards for the Big Green. Gibbons picked up Brine/IWLCA first team All-America honors, and she was the Ivy League player of the year. Gibbons led the conference in scoring with 49 goals and 13 assists for 62 points.

Gibbons was also a unanimous first team All-Ivy selection, as well as one of 10 student-athletes named to the Verizon Academic At-Large District 1 team.

Zimmer, also a unanimous first team All-Ivy selection, was named second team by Brine/IWLCA and honorable mention by U.S. Lacrosse. She was the Big Green's second leading scorer with 28 goals and 22 assists and was one of the nation's leaders in ground balls, finishing second during the regular season with 4.88 per game.

"The coaching and the team dynamics here can't be beat. My teammates over the years have been the ones to make it so special...especially my classmates," Zimmer said.

It has been a privilege to have been part of this program. It will be fun to watch it keep growing," she added.