The Dirty Birds of women’s lacrosse are getting dirtier by the second, continuing on their magic carpet ride of NESCAC victories with a major upset win over No. 8 Bowdoin College last Saturday. The Cardinals flew by the Polar Bears en route to a 14-7 rampage. The victory marked the first time that the team has beaten Bowdoin since 2009, adding a rich cream cheese frosting to a season that has already been a decadent red velvet cake.
As West College honored Zonker Harris Day, the Red and Black applauded the seven stalwart seniors that have led this team to historic success in 2017: Rachel Aronow, Leah Giacalone, Meghan Kelly, Liana Mathias, Grace McCann, Becca Phillips, and Meredith Smith.
The whole team, determined to cement the legacies of the class of 2017 in Connecticut marble, somersaulted early over the Polar Bears. Seniors led the Cardinal charge; Smith scored the first goal just a minute after the opening draw, followed by Aronow adding another at the 15:18 mark.
Following a quick goal by Bowdoin’s Kate McAloon, Wesleyan responded with a quick 4-0 run that melted the thin ice that the Polar Bears were skating on. An unassisted dagger by Smith started the carnage at the 12:04 mark. She continued her strong Senior Day outing, assisting on the next goal by Caitlin Wood ’19 with 10 minutes left in the half. Mathias and Aronow scored the final two goals of the period as the Dirty Birds walked into the halftime break with a 6-1 advantage. Fittingly, Cardinal seniors were involved in all six of the first half goals.
“It was really one of those things where you blink and all of a sudden they were ahead by one, then two, then three, and bazinga! 6-1,” said devout fan Tricia Merlino ’18.
Bazinga is right, Tricia! Smith came back from the locker room still an inferno, increasing Wesleyan’s lead to six on an unassisted whipped shot. The Polar Bears tried to gnaw back through an exchange of goals. They were only able to get within three, however, before the Cardinals reasserted their authoritarian control of the game. The squad tallied a string of three unanswered goals within the span of three minutes. With that, the Red Birds made extinct the possibility of a Polar Bear resurrection. After the referees blew the final whistle, the Cardinals ran to congratulate a phenomenal game in net by McCann, who tied a career-high with 12 saves on 19 shot attempts. All together, the seniors played a pivotal role in Saturday’s triumph as Smith, Aronow, and Mathias scored a combined nine goals.
Saturday’s win snapped the Dirty Birds’ seven-game losing streak against the Polar Bears. It was also the largest win over Bowdoin since 1982, when Wesleyan won 16-5.
“Today our goal was to play inspired and motivated for our senior class, a group that has led in so many ways this year,” said head coach Kim Williams after the game. “I thought the team really played well on both sides of the field. Our seniors led the way, setting the tone early and helping us jump out to a strong start. It was a great day for this program, honoring a senior class that has given so much of themselves with a great win against a good Bowdoin team.”
At five wins within the NESCAC, the Cardinals have already surpassed their conference win record from the previous three seasons with two games still remaining. The upset over No. 8 Bowdoin continued an impressive résumé of USILA/NIKE Division III Coaches Poll Top 15-ranked decapitations in 2017, which includes formerly No. 13 Bates, No. 13 Hamilton, and now, Bowdoin.
The Dirty Birds will get a short rest following the impressive win before finishing the regular season with a pair of in-conference games. The squad will face Tufts on April 22, then do battle against Conn College on home turf the following Wednesday. The Cardinals also saw the Jumbos and the Camels in their final two games of last season, coming up short against Tufts 13-10 and defeating Conn College decisively by a 10-goal margin. The team will look to avenge the loss against Tufts from the previous year, as the outcome of these two contests will determine whether the Cardinals move up from their current fifth seed in the conference before commencing tournament play.