Women’s lacrosse secures share of first Ivy League title since 2011

by Addison Dick | 4/29/19 2:25am

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Women's lacrosse's win against Cornell last weekend set the team up to clinch a share of the Ivy League title this Saturday versus Yale.

Source: John and Matt Risley/Courtesy of the Dartmouth Athletics Department

The women’s lacrosse team won the regular season Ivy League championship after scoring a season-high 23 goals in Saturday’s victory over Yale University.

Entering the game against the Bulldogs, the Big Green needed a win to earn a share of the Ivy League title. With Princeton University’s win over Cornell University, Dartmouth will share the championship with the Tigers.

The Big Green allowed the first goal of the day to Yale but proceeded to find its groove offensively. Attacker Kierra Sweeney ’19 opened the scoring for Dartmouth with the 150th point of her career. She finished the game with five goals, giving her a team-high 52 goals this season. Sweeney said the team had great ball movement, which allowed the Big Green to score easily. Fellow attacker Michelle Yu ’21 also found the back of the net a career-high five times against Yale and her sister Vanessa, who is a midfielder for the Bulldogs.

Dartmouth took a seven-goal lead into halftime, but Yale continued to battle in the second half, cutting the lead to five goals with under 14 minutes remaining. The Big Green, however, pulled away by scoring nine unanswered goals to finish the game on top by a score of 23-9.

Sweeney and Yu were not the only Big Green players to reach milestones on Saturday. Attacker Kellen D’Alleva ’19 had four assists and is the new leader in program history for assists in a single season with 41. Midfielder Kathryn Giroux ’19 continued to be dominant in draw control, winning 10 draws in the game. She now has a program-record 137 draws this season and is 12th in NCAA history with 395 wins on the draw.

Midfielder Emma Lesko ’21 described Saturday’s win as a complete team effort.

“We had so many people on offense contribute, and I love how our defense played,” she said. “We played the way we’ve been playing all season.”

As the final minutes ticked down in New Haven, head coach Danielle Spencer substituted all of her senior players into the game. Sweeney described the last moments of the game as “electric.”

“There was a timeout with three minutes left, and we all looked up at the scoreboard and knew we put destiny in our own hands,” she said. “It made it unquestionable that we were going to win.”

Saturday’s victory gave the Big Green its 12th Ivy League championship in program history. The team won seven of nine Ivy titles from 1997 to 2005, and this year’s championship is the team’s first since 2011. This season is Spencer’s first Ivy League championship in her third season with the Big Green. Amy Patton, who coached the Big Green from 1993 until Spencer took over in 2017, also won her first Ivy League championship in her third season with Dartmouth.

Lesko said winning the Ivy League championship feels surreal. 

“People have talked about doing this for so many years,” Lesko said. “We were all in awe yesterday because we had such a dominating win. It is so exciting because we had such a hard fall and January putting in the work, and all the little things we’ve done made it so much more worth it and is really awesome. We battled through so many of the Ivy League games and knowing that we’d actually done it was absolutely thrilling.”

Winning a conference championship was one of the main goals for the senior class, and Sweeney said it felt amazing to accomplish.

“For my class especially, it’s been four years in the making,” Sweeney said. “It’s been our goal the whole time. To finally achieve it senior year, there are very few words I could use to adequately describe it.”

The Big Green does not have much time to celebrate, as the Ivy League Tournament semifinals take place Friday at Columbia University. Princeton, the No. 1 seed, will take on Cornell for the second straight weekend, while Dartmouth and the University of Pennsylvania will play in a rematch of last year’s semifinal, in which the Quakers came out on top.

“We’re really excited to play them, but we have a long week ahead of us,” Lesko said. “We’re going to focus on ourselves for the beginning of the week and see where we can improve. Once it gets closer to the game, we’ll focus on how we can beat them and what worked and didn’t work in April. We’re excited to see them again because we know it’s going to be another really good game.”

Starting goaltender Kiera Vrindten ’20 is confident that the Big Green will have a good week of practice and be prepared for Friday’s showdown.

“It’s important to focus on our fundamentals and getting better with every practice,” Vrindten said. “We’ll reassess on Monday and create a game plan, not only to make sure that we improve as a team but also prepare well against our opponent.”

Last year’s loss to Penn will be on the minds of the Big Green players. The Quakers ended Dartmouth’s season in the Ivy League semifinals with a two-goal win. The Big Green avenged the loss with its win over Penn in the regular season, but the stakes are higher with postseason implications on the line. Vrindten described last’s year loss to Penn in the tournament as “heartbreaking” and is looking forward to Friday’s game.

“I think it’s going to be a great opportunity to prove that our program is capable of beating them more than once this season, but also getting revenge for losing to them last year and getting to the Ivy championship, which has been one of our team goals since I was a freshman,” she said.

Vrindten believes the loss last season provided the team with the experience necessary to come out on top this year.

“I think it’s going to motivate us,” she said. “Returning again this year, we were all left with a bitter taste in our mouth, and we’re all really excited to see what happens because we know that our team can prevail in the end. Now it’s our time to show everybody that our program is as good as we say we are.”

The Ivy League Tournament will be a crucial moment in the Big Green’s season, as the team is fighting to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament. The winner in New York City this weekend will earn an automatic bid to the field of 26 teams. US Lacrosse Magazine projected the Big Green as one of the final teams in the field in its latest bracket prediction, released last Wednesday. The Big Green should be safely in the field with a win on Friday, but a loss to Penn could leave the team unsure of its postseason fate when the NCAA bracket is revealed next Sunday.

The game against the Quakers should be a tight contest. The most recent Inside Lacrosse poll ranked Dartmouth 12th, one spot ahead of Penn. The regular season contest, played in Philadelphia, saw the Big Green come out on top 15-11.

The Big Green has high expectations for this weekend, especially with the chance to continue its season by earning a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

“At the end of the weekend, we want to win an Ivy championship,” Vrindten said. “That’s pretty clear-cut. We want to bring our program back to the top, as it was so many years ago. We’re hopeful that if we do play well and prove ourselves in the tournament, then that can get us a bid into the NCAA Tournament.”

The Big Green will take on the Penn in the first semifinal on Friday at 2 p.m. in New York City. The second semifinal between Princeton and Cornell takes place at 5 p.m. The winners of the two semifinals will meet in the Ivy League Championship on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. with. The Selection Show for the NCAA Tournament will take place later Sunday at 9 p.m., with tournament play beginning on May 7.