Women's Lacrosse | Jumbos lose gut-wrencher, drop to sixth seed in NESCAC tournament
Published: Friday, April 27, 2012
Updated: Friday, April 27, 2012 11:04
More than any other game this season, the No. 14 women’s lacrosse team’s regular season finale with No. 13 Bowdoin had all the makings of an extremely tight contest. Not only were the teams tied for fifth in the NESCAC and separated by one spot in the national rankings, but they also entered with very similar statistics.
As expected, the game was a battle from start to finish, and it reached overtime before the host Polar Bears eventually triumphed, 10-9, securing the fifth seed in the conference tournament while relegating the Jumbos to sixth.
The defeat felt somewhat unjust for the Jumbos, who fought back over the entire second half to make up a 6-4 halftime deficit. After Bowdoin rebounded to take a 9-8 lead, sophomore Gabby Horner responded with just 5:22 remaining, scoring a goal that, ultimately, sent the game to overtime after neither team could break the deadlock.
As they have all season, the Polar Bears relied on junior attackman Carolyn Gorajek to convert in the clutch. With 3:59 remaining in the overtime period, Gorajek tallied her fifth goal of the game and 47th of the season on a free position shot, and after Tufts sophomore midfielder Kate Applegate had a shot denied in the dying moments, the Jumbos knew that their chances of finishing fifth — and avoiding a first-round matchup against the No. 7 Middlebury Panthers — had slipped away.
“It was a hard loss, especially because it determined who we would face in NESCACs,” Applegate said. “We were so evenly matched that in the end it came down to possession as well as Bowdoin getting lucky with a couple calls. We had the ball in the last minute of overtime, and our attack put up an incredible last effort, but we couldn’t find the back of the net.”
While the loss stings, there were many silver linings for the Jumbos, who delivered a more complete performance than they had in their previous losses to some of the NESCAC’s best teams.
“I think we played really well,” senior attackman Kelly Hyland said. “Our defense played absolutely outstanding, and to hold a team like Bowdoin to 10 goals is amazing. Our offense executed, moved the ball well and got a lot of good looks, but we just fell a little short at the end.”
Despite the positives, which included five-point performances from senior tri-captain attackman Lara Kozin and junior attackman Kerry Eaton, the loss means the Jumbos remain winless against NESCAC teams with better-than-.500 conference records, and they will face 10-2 Middlebury in the first round. However, the team knows from experience that just making the tournament gives it an opportunity to do some damage.
“The same exact thing happened to us last year,” Hyland said. “We lost to Bowdoin by one goal on the last day of the season, and then had to go on the road against Middlebury, and we beat them. That’s exactly what we’re planning on doing this year.”
In order to pull off the upset over the Panthers, the Jumbos will need to continue to tighten up their offense and transition game, as turnovers have been an Achilles’ heel all season. If they limit unforced errors and the defense plays to its potential, that should be enough to give the Jumbos a good shot.
“Going into this game, the mindset of the team is positive,” Applegate said. “Middlebury just lost their third [NESCAC] game in a row. Our defense has been amazingly solid this season, so we will probably focus on our attack [in practice]. Taking care of the ball and capitalizing on possession time will be crucial. It’s going to be a great game.”
“The fact that [the Bowdoin game] was such a good game and that we all played so hard is giving us great confidence that we can beat Middlebury on Saturday,” senior tri-captain Katie Lotz said. “So we are already past the dwelling point. Immediately after the game we were upset, but are ready to take out our revenge on Middlebury.”
The Jumbos will also need to find a way past Middlebury’s senior goalie Lily Nguyen, who has the second-best goals against average in the conference. If they don’t, their season could come to an end — an early elimination from the NESCAC tournament would dim their chances of an NCAA bid.
“Our performance in this tournament will dictate whether we get the opportunity to continue our season in NCAAs,” Applegate said. “We’re determined to prove ourselves. Our entire team, especially the seniors, is going to give everything we have to make it as far as we can into the postseason.”
“The mindset of our team now is just go give it our all every second we are out on the field,” Lotz said. “Now, every game is win or go home, and none of us are ready for the season to end yet. The way games ended up in the regular season means nothing now, and anything can happen in NESCACs.”