Women’s lacrosse conquers NESCAC

Following upsets of the No. 3 and No. 1 seeds in the NESCAC tournament, seventh-seeded women’s lacrosse (12-6, 4-5 in the NESCAC) claimed the program’s first NESCAC title last weekend. The women shut out third-seeded Colby in the second half and came from behind to claim a 9-4 victory in the championship game on Sunday after overcoming a five-goal second-half deficit to edge out first-ranked Trinity 11-10 the day before. The women have come from behind in the second half in five games this season. Sunday’s win earns Williams its first NESCAC title and a bid to the NCAA tournament.

Williams claimed a decisive 9-4 victory over defending NESCAC champion Colby on Sunday. The Mules pulled ahead 2-0 within the first 10 minutes of play, but Sam Weinstein ’13 kick-started the Eph offense with a goal with 19:38 on the clock. The two teams traded goals for the rest of the half: Colby pushed the score to 3-1 before Meera Sivalingam ’12 registered an Eph goal off an assist by Tracey Ferriter ’10, bringing the women back within one at 3-2. After the Mules’ fourth goal of the game, Ferriter took a free position shot that found its way past the Colby netminder with just 51 seconds remaining in the half, and the teams entered the break with the score at 4-3 in favor of Colby.

The second half saw six straight Williams goals, and the Eph defense held strong to shut out the Mules in the second 30 minutes. The women’s barrage – which started within the first two minutes of the half and didn’t subside until the 7:29-minute mark – saw contributions from six different Ephs, all of whom notched unassisted goals. Whitney Kelly ’10 evened the game up at 4-4 just 1:46 into the half. Tina Nawrocki ’10 followed Kelly’s lead, firing a shot past the Mules’ goalie to pull the Ephs up 5-4. Four more goals in quick succession from Sivalingam, Anne Marie Burke ’11, co-captain Whitney Thayer ’10 and Kaitlin Ellis ’12 handed Williams the 9-4 win and the NESCAC title.

Netminder Julia Schreiber ’11 was phenomenal on Sunday with 12 saves on the day. The junior stopped seven attempts in the second half to keep the Mules quiet for the entire 30 minutes. Defense was key in the win, as Williams only outshot Colby by a narrow 24-22 margin.

Sunday’s win came after a Saturday afternoon upset of No. 1 seed Trinity in the NESCAC semifinal. Williams initially pulled ahead, going up 2-1 within the first five minutes thanks to early goals from Thayer and Kelly, but then lost its momentum as Trinity opened a 5-2 lead after four straight tallies. Scores from Weinstein and Margie Fulton ’12 sandwiched yet another Bantam goal before Trinity went on to add one more for a 7-4 score at the halftime break.

An impressive Eph rally marked the second half, as the women stepped up to answer two early Bantam goals. Down 9-4, six Ephs scored a total of seven unanswered goals to retake the lead for Williams. Weinstein led the way with two more goals, supported by a score each from Nicolle Perry ’13, Alice Nelson ’10, Thayer, Sivalingam and Fulton. Though Trinity made a last-ditch attempt to retake the lead, scoring with 3:23 left to play, but the Bantams couldn’t regain control and fell 11-10.

“The teams we’re playing are really tough teams,” Head Coach Chris Mason said when asked about the Ephs’ recent tendency to come from behind to win, especially last weekend. “This conference is so strong … There’s a determination that our team has just never to give up, and they always believe that they can come back and win the game.”

“The defense just digging in and playing incredibly tough [has been crucial],” Mason said. “Julia Schreiber in goal anchors that defense [along with co-captain] Quinn Brueggemann ’10. [The defense] really just all works so well together. Throughout the tournament we played some of our best lacrosse … The team’s been improving throughout the season,” she added. “I knew we could win, it was just a matter of it all falling into place for us.”

This recent improvement bodes well for tonight’s first-round NCAA game, in which Williams will mark its fifth NCAA appearance of the program’s history as the women host Babson at 6 p.m.