Jeffs on deck for women’s lax in NESCACs

Women’s lacrosse (9-3, 6-3 in the NESCAC) finished its final and most challenging week of regular-season play this Saturday and began a playoff week during which they hope to avenge every loss of the season.

The Ephwomen got things started with a convincing 16-3 win over Bates on Sunday, thereby avenging their first loss of the season. Their other losses – to Middlebury and Amherst – were both within the last week of play, so their desire for retribution is still close at hand.

The Ephs took on undefeated Middlebury College on Thursday, but fell 15-9 to the Panthers. After the score was tied at five in the first half, Middlebury plowed through with another ten goals, while the Ephs added only four more to their tally.

“After we were tied at five, I guess we felt like that was enough,” said co-captain Heather Black ’02. “By the half, they were ahead 10-6, and we never managed to catch back up.”

Black led the team in goals and assists, racking up her two goals and two assists within the last four Eph goals of the game.

Stef Noering ’03 also scored two goals and added one assist. Jen Ashkenazi ’03 contributed three assists and one goal, while Kate Leonard ’03, Molly Jennings ’04, Tori Scott ’04 and Kathryn Doherty ’03 each netted one goal; Doherty also helped out with an assist. In the goal, Abi Jackson ’03 made 12 saves.

The loss meant that Williams was knocked out of contention for the top seed in the NESCAC tournament. However, they were still eligible for the second seed, contingent on a win over Amherst on Saturday. “We didn’t do as well as we could have against Middlebury,” said Black, “but that is, in a sense, a good feeling. We know we are as good as they are.”

In the past, said Black, the Ephs have considered the Panthers somewhat untouchable, but that changed in this game. “We didn’t feel intimidated,” she said.

Saturday, the Ephs took on archrival Amherst, a team that had shared the same record in the NESCAC earlier that week. But after the week’s games, Williams entered the game 6-2 in the NESCAC after falling to Middlebury, while Amherst had increased to 7-1 after a win over Conn College.

The Ephs were fast out of the starting gate, scoring the first three goals of the game in the first seven minutes. Amherst responded in kind, and fewer than six minutes later the score was tied at three. Jennings scored the next goal, and, after two Amherst goals, kept Williams in the running, scoring another to end the half tied at five.

Ashkenazi scored within a minute of the second half’s beginning, but the Jeffs scored the next two goals. With only five minutes left in the game, Doherty brought about another tie at seven. However, Amherst’s Mary Kate Allen ’03 came through with two goals, and the Jeffs won 9-7.

Jennings was the game’s high scorer, with three goals and one assist. Ashkenazi added one goal and two assists, and Noering, Doherty and Amy Wicker ’05 each contributed one goal. Black chipped in with two assists.

“We kind of gave that game to them,” said Black. “We can do much better.”

Chris Mason, head coach of women’s lacrosse, agreed. “We matched up well with them,” she said. “There were a few plays we should have converted, and some we should have stopped.”

Both Black and Mason agreed that the Ephs had been solid defensively, and that improvement should come from the offense. “We need to be better with transitions to offense, and we didn’t provide enough pass options,” said Mason. “In the second half, we were a little stationary offensively.”

After the game, Coach Mason got the phone call the entire team had been waiting for – the schedule for the NESCAC quarterfinals, to be held the following day. Williams was paired with Bates, a team that had stolen a win in a 12-10 double overtime upset earlier in the season.

From the start of the Bates game, held on a rain-soaked Cole Field on Sunday, the Ephs dominated.

“Despite the rain, I’d say everyone had a blast playing against Bates,” said co-captain Molly Venter ’02, “and that was the difference between this time and the last time we played them.” In the first half, the Ephs scored ten goals to the Bobcats’ one. “After losing yesterday,” said Mason after the game, “we were ready to play again.”

The weather worsened during the second half of the game, the rain and wind picking up. As a result of some players’ hands going numb, the game became sloppier for both teams, as turnovers and ground balls became more frequent.

“It wasn’t our cleanest game,” said Venter, “but we were all over every loose ball, and the midfield and offensive connections were much better.” During the second half, the Ephs netted six more goals and allowed the Bobcats two more to end the game 16-3.

The combined force of Ashkenazi and Black was one to be reckoned with. Ashkenazi was the game’s high scorer, with five goals and one assist. Black had the reverse score – one goal and five assists.

Noering and Leonard, along with Jennings, scored two goals apiece; Leonard and Jennings added one assist each. Tara Boyd ’05 had one goal and one assist, while Doherty and Wicker both scored one goal.

Lindsay Holland ’04, a defender, converted a pass from goalie Jackson to a goal. Anna Gonzales ’05 contributed one assist. Jackson allowed two goals and kept out six, a 75 percent saving effort. Ann Woods ’05 got in the goal to capture two goals and let one through.

The win allows the Ephs to move on to the NESCAC semifinals at Middlebury on May 4, where they will meet Amherst once again.

After a recent look at the Jeffs’ patterns, the Ephs will work to break up the trinity of Abby Ouimet ’03, Allison Aldrich ’04 and Liz Martin ’04, the Jeffs’ offensive arsenal. “We did that well on Saturday,” said Black. “We know that even if we can stop them, we still need to contain the rest of the offense.”

They will also work to set a faster game pace than Amherst is used to. “They pass it back and forth a lot, and create openings just through wasting time,” said Wicker, adding, “I think in general, they’re overrated.”

Jennings, too, is confident of the Ephs’ victory. “We know we’re a stronger team, and it’s all about attitude.”

The winner of the game will play Middlebury at 1:00 p.m. the following day, and the Ephs hope to propel themselves to nationals by avenging their loss to the undefeated Panthers.