Women’s lax earns NCAA berth

Women’s lacrosse (12-6, 4-5 in the NESCAC) concluded its season on Sunday with a 12-10 loss to Colby (16-1, 8-1) in the NESCAC tournament final. Although the Ephs were able to rally in a suspense-filled semifinal game against the first seeded Jumbos (14-2, 8-1), their momentum fell short of winning them the conference title.

The first half of the final saw particularly strong play from the Ephs. Although Colby earned the first two goals of the game, Tracey Ferriter ’10 put Williams on the scoreboard at 6:32, jumpstarting a series of offensive plays. Colby managed to bring the score to 4-1 halfway into the period, but the women immediately worked to close the gap. Co-captain Julia Nawrocki ’09 scored at just under 10 minutes remaining, and Whitney Thayer ’10 netted another goal with 6:08 left on the clock. The Mules notched another point less than a minute later, but the Ephs rebounded with four consecutive goals. Co-captain Britt Spackman ’09 earned her first point of the game before Thayer went to net back-to-back goals. Alice Nelson ’10 took a free position shot with six seconds remaining to put Williams ahead 8-6 at the half.

Because the women had proved themselves to be a strong second half team earlier in the season, the lead at the half boded well for the rest of the game. Though the Mules took seven more shots on goal than Williams in the first period, the Ephs nearly doubled their opponents’ number of ground balls, a testament to their tenacity in the opening 30 minutes.

The second half, however, saw the Ephs’ offensive power taper off as the Mules charged ahead with full steam. Once again, Colby opened the half with two goals before Ferriter scored four and a half minutes in. After nine scoreless minutes, Colby earned another point at 16:45 remaining to tie the teams at 9-9. Spackman scored off an assist from Margie Fulton ’12, but her goal was to be the Ephs’ last point of the game. Colby captured three final goals to take the close 12-10 victory. Though Colby was able to secure the tournament win, Williams made a noteworthy effort in both of the final two rounds.

Indeed, the game against Tufts on Saturday proved that the women posed a true threat in the conference. The Ephs were ready to challenge the Jumbos from the start; though Tufts took the first goal less than two minutes, Williams harnessed its talent to claim the lead for the rest of the half. Julia Nawrocki scored the Ephs’ first goal, unassisted, at 4:30 before Tina Nawrocki ’10 took two of her own. Julia Nawrocki assisted the latter of those, which brought the score to 3-1. Tufts scored at 19:37 remaining, but Williams ably responded with three goals. Thayer scored the first of the three off an assist from Julia Nawrocki, and then Allison Page ’11 and Fulton followed with unassisted goals within a minute of each other. Tufts took a final goal at 1:59 remaining, but Williams still claimed a 6-3 lead at the half.

The second half, however, saw Tufts steadily work to tie the score. Thayer scored with a free position shot and Tina Nawrocki scored off an assist from Spackman, but Tufts managed to earn five goals in the period, including one at three seconds remaining to bring the teams to nine points each. Though the Ephs lost their lead in the second, the team definitely benefited from defensive resolve. Goalie Julia Schreiber ’11 made eight saves in both the first and second halves to keep the Mules at bay.

“We know how good Julia can be, but Saturday she really shined,” Spackman said. “It is invaluable that she can step up at such big moments, and she has always thrived under pressure.”

In the first overtime, Amanda Roberts scored two goals for Tufts, but Williams reacted with even greater strength, tallying three in the second overtime. Nelson and Julia Nawrocki scored the first two, both of which Spackman assisted. Spackman scored the third at 0:15 remaining. Even though a yellow card forced the Ephs to play the first overtime down one player, the team stayed steady to pull off the upset in the final minutes of the dramatic match.

Spackman spoke to the team’s incredible effort in the final, especially compared to last season’s results. “We finished in last place last year. We knew we were the underdogs. We still are. We know that people don’t expect much from us,” Spackman said. “We knew that this was our one shot to prove that we belonged in the postseason.”

Although Williams did not win the NESCAC trophy, the women will have the chance to compete in the first round of the NCAA tournament at home today against Endicott (15-4).