Women's Lacrosse: Carrier Dome Holds Destiny for Women's Lax
"Part of the reason we do so well," head coach Amy Patton said of her Dartmouth women's lacrosse team, "is that we truly enjoy the journey."
While this season's journey has proved challenging, the 13th-ranked Big Green team has enjoyed memorable wins with the chips down. The last two homestands at Scully-Fahey Field saw Dartmouth prevail in must-win situations against Duke and Penn State, who were ranked seventh and 10th in the country at the time, respectively.
Now, as the Big Green women travel to Syracuse for their last game of the regular season, their backs are against the wall once more. A win over the 16th-ranked Orangewomen (9-5, 3-3 Big East) should send the Big Green to the NCAA tournament for the fifth-straight year. A loss at the Carrier Dome would, in all likelihood, leave Dartmouth out in the cold when the tournament seedings are announced on Sunday night.
Ranked 13th in the country, the Big Green women seem like a lock to make the field of 16 teams that will contend for the national title. However, with automatic bids guaranteed to seven conferences, including relatively weak ones like the Atlantic 10 and the Patriot League, nothing is for sure, except that Dartmouth's road to the tournament goes through Syracuse, where the Orangewomen look to make a last desperate bid for the tournament with an upset win over the Big Green.
After a strong opening highlighted by a win over No. 4 Virginia (then ranked seventh in the country), Syracuse has struggled, not defeating a ranked opponent since, even losing to unranked Rutgers on April 6.
If the tournament selections were being made Friday night instead of Sunday night, Syracuse would almost certainly be left out. But the selections will be made on Sunday, and the Orangewomen hope to punch their ticket to the tournament with a clutch victory.
Dartmouth has had more luck against ranked teams than has Syracuse, with especially huge wins over Duke and Penn State. In the five toughest tests for Dartmouth, co-captain Jen Newitt '02 had 13 goals (including the game-winner against Duke) and six assists (with one coming on classmate Kate Cole's game-winner against Pennsylvania), while goalkeeper Sarah Hughes '02 stopped 40 of 74 shots. The Dartmouth seniors are far from ready to hang it up, and should be raring to go when the game begins on Saturday.
This is not to say that Dartmouth will need to rely solely on its seniors. This season has seen many standout performances from the team's underclasswomen, most recently a hat trick against Duke by Elizabeth Right '04. Lana Smith '04 posted a hat trick against Brown and Katieanne Christian '05 has tallied in four out of the last five games. With Whitney Jamison '03 leading the team in assists, the Big Green women have a formidable array of weapons to attack Syracuse with.
On the other side of the field, the Orangewomen boast three 40-point scorers. Sophomore Leigh-Ann Zimmer leads Syracuse with 51 points, while junior Kim Wayne has 48 and senior Carrie Soults has 41. Dartmouth's defense, however, led by co-captain Katy Cuneo '02 and goalkeeper Hughes, has had success shutting down high-scoring offenses this season.
The Big Green women held Duke to its second-lowest goal total of the season and Penn State to its third lowest. Cuneo, Hughes and the Dartmouth defense will look to reduce the high-powered Syracuse offense to just another victim, and leave the Carrier Dome victorious.
With their season on the line, the Big Green women will bring their suffocating defense into the Carrier Dome to battle an equally hungry Syracuse team looking to ride their high-octane offense to victory. The journey will either end or begin anew when the ball is put into play at noon on Saturday.