Holy Week for Judeo-Christian followers throughout the world turned out to be a holy week for the Dirty Birds of women’s lacrosse as well. A formidable drought that has plagued the squad since the ’80s ended last Saturday in a flood of 11 goals, when the Little Three Champion banner was once again returned to the high altar of Middletown.
After posting consecutive five-win seasons dating back to the 2012 campaign, the Cardinals’ 8-4 record thus far nearly doubles each of the past five years’ win totals. The last of these victories came against Little Three rival Amherst, when the Cards trounced the newly minted Mammoths, 9-4. Following the victory over Amherst, Wesleyan went into its game against Williams knowing that the ability to make history was in their hands. From Wednesday to Saturday, the determined women took their intensity levels up a notch during practice in anticipation of Saturday’s game in the Berkshires. And, as my high school lacrosse coach once told me, hard work and dedication pay off.
The win required resilience, particularly after Williams jumped out to an early lead. Though Liana Mathias ’17 started the game with goal off a free position strike one minute into play, the Ephs responded strongly with four unanswered goals in the next 15 minutes. Williams clung to a 4-1 late into the first half. However, in the last three minutes of the first half, the Red and Black showed that they would not go down without a fight. Antonia Kaz ’19, Rachel Aronow ’17 and Abby Manning ’20 scored three straight goals to end the half with the score knotted at four apiece.
Starting the second half, Wesleyan and Williams traded unassisted goals to keep the game even at six by the 16:32 mark. From there, it was all Wes: a parade of four goals by juggernauts Mathias, Aronow, and Manning left the Ephs as dumbfounded as the Egyptian pharaoh after the plagues that caused the Exodus.
And just as the plagues resulted in a victory for the Israelites, this plague led to the Dirty Birds hoisting the beautiful red and black Little Three victory banner for the first time since 1982.
“Obviously, Williams was super exciting for us; winning the Little Three has been a team goal of ours since before our fall off-season even began,” said Dana Mitchell ’18. “I don’t think it was a perfect game, in fact I think in some ways we made it harder for ourselves than it needed to be, but we pushed through in the end and that’s really all that matters. Overall, it was an awesome victory and something I think we will all remember forever.”
Crashing to the ground from the high off the Williams game, Wesleyan fell short of continuing their streak in what could have been a huge upset win at No. 6 Trinity. While the Cardinals hoped to avenge a brutal defeat at the hands of the Bantams the season before, their efforts ultimately proved fruitless. After an early Trinity goal, Kaz continued her hot streak with a goal off an assist from Mathias. Crooked Trinity countered with three unanswered goals. An unassisted goal by Abby Horst ’19 lowered the deficit to two at the half. After a pair of back and forth netters to start the second, Trinity went on a 4-0 run. Back-to-back goals from Rachel Aronow—bringing her season points total to 24—brought the Dirty Birds back within reach. However, Wesleyan was not able to fully capitalize, falling 11-8.
“Trinity was a tough loss, because while it’s exciting to know that we can really play and compete with one of the best teams in the country, it’s frustrating because with a few minor adjustments the game could’ve been ours,” said Mitchell following the contest. “Hopefully we can take what we learned from Trinity and quickly turn it around for our huge senior night game against Bowdoin, something we’re all really looking forward to.”
Games like the loss against Trinity can be heartbreaking, but the best teams rise up from the ashes stronger than ever before. The Cardinals will look for their resurrection following Saturday’s defeat in a home game against No. 8 Bowdoin. As for Crooked Trinity, they may have gotten the best of the good guys this time, but these Dirty Birds will be out for revenge come NESCAC tournament time.