The 16th-ranked women’s lacrosse team (7-4, 3-3 NESCAC) stormed back after an early deficit to catch up against their 6th-ranked NESCAC opponent Tufts (10-1, 6-0 NESCAC) at home on Saturday, April 7. The Jumbos quickly took an early lead on the Dirty Birds, but Abby Manning ’20 and Johanna Copeland ’21 led the Red and Black over the top with two goals each, while first-year Sydney Prokupek tallied one goal and one assist. The Cardinals evened the score with a goal by Prokupek, taking advantage of a player-up opportunity and cutting through the tough defenses of the Jumbos and sending it past the goalkeeper. However, Tufts answered back against the Red Birds, scoring five goals within 12 minutes to make the score 6-1. But the fearless Cardinals never back away from a challenge and quickly dug themselves out of the hole by scoring three goals within 4:42 to make the score 6-4 before halftime.
After the break, the Cardinals continued their hot streak by adding a goal as Prokupek assisted Copeland for her first career score to pull within one point of the Jumbos. After a Tufts strike from Maddie Norman increased the visitors’ lead back to two, Wesleyan quickly scored back-to-back goals to bring it even. Manning scored her second of the game at the 19:07 mark, and Copeland scored off a free position shot to tie the game at 7-7 with 13:30 to play.
The stalemate didn’t last long as the Jumbos quickly capitalized on a run with five unanswered goals in the remaining time, winning 12-7.
In addition to the Cardinals’ five scorers, many members of the team had standout moments on Saturday: Jordan Ansell ’21, Amy Breitfeller ’19 and Julia Gretsky ’20 each had three ground balls. Breitfeller, the Cardinals’ defensive ace, disrupted the Tufts offense by causing four turnovers. Goalie Allegra Grant ’20 added to the defensive power with nine saves in the net, keeping Tufts’ scoring four below its average 16 goals per game.
Although Tufts is a higher-ranked team than Wesleyan, the Cardinals now know that they can compete with any team in the NESCAC, which boasts seven teams in the top 25.
“We don’t focus too much on rankings because we know we are capable of beating any team and don’t want rankings to get in the way of our mental focus,” said midfielder Josie Russ ’20. “Also, our conference is so competitive that any NESCAC game can go either way, so it’s important that our team sticks to our game plan rather than getting caught up in rankings.”
The women remain unfazed by the loss, and instead note areas for improvement to apply to the final four games of the regular season.
“We need to start off games stronger and then remain consistent throughout all 50 min of the game,” Russ said. “In the Tufts game, we were down 1-6 at one point and managed to catch up and eventually have a tie game (7-7). The large deficit in the beginning of the game made it more difficult to come back when we had finally gained momentum. For this reason, it’s imperative that we start off strong and keep the energy up throughout the entire game.”
The Cardinals seem optimistic about their final four regular-season games against NESCAC opponents No. 8 Trinity, No. 18 Bowdoin, Hamilton, and Connecticut College. The team looks to finish their season strong just as they did last year (3-1 over the final four games) to secure a high seed heading into the NESCAC playoffs.
The Dirty Birds return to battle at 6:30 on Tuesday, April 9 against Connecticut rival and No. 8 Trinity College (9-2, 5-1 NESCAC) on Wesleyan’s own Smith Field. As the women look to avenge last season’s close loss, this is a game fans will not want to miss.
Kevin Le can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Owen Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com.