c/o Max Forstein

c/o Max Forstein

The Wesleyan women’s lacrosse team is back and out for revenge. After an impressive regular season last year in which the Cardinals went 8–2 in the conference and 13–2 overall, the postseason did not see the team reach their full potential, as they lost both their NESCAC Semifinal and NCAA Tournament Third Round matchups to their longtime rival Tufts.

Still, despite a frustrating end, the Cardinals entered this year confident in their abilities and motivated to keep improving.

“Last year was really important for growth and gaining confidence on the field, especially with some of the younger girls stepping into bigger roles,” captain and defender Haley McLaughlin ’24 said. “Obviously, it didn’t end the way we wanted it to end, and so transitioning from last year to this year, it’s important that we continue to play to our own strengths and just focus on us.”

The season got off to a fast start, with the Cardinals’ first matchup of the year being against No. 9 nationally ranked Colby at home on March 2. The score was incredibly tight throughout, with neither team leading by more than two goals during the first three quarters. At the beginning of the fourth, attacker Olivia Lai ’23 MA ’24 netted her third goal of the day to tie the score up 7–7, to which the Mules responded with a three-goal run to take the lead. Though attacker Laura Baine ’24 did manage to net one more with 30 seconds remaining, ultimately the Cardinals were unable to close the gap and the game ended in an 8–10 loss for the Red and Black.

Though unsatisfied with the results, the Cardinals were determined to use the loss as a learning experience and not let it throw them off course.

“It’s tough to start with a loss,” captain and midfielder Molly Greer ’24 said. “But at the same time, it’s really good to start with a top competitor because we learned the holes in our defense [and] what more we needed to do offensively. And so we used that loss to fuel ourselves [moving forward].” 

In their next matchup, the Cardinals faced equally stiff competition as they took on No. 5 ranked Salisbury University for the first time in program history on March 10. Though the Gulls struck first with a three-goal run to start the game, the Cardinals responded swiftly, first with a goal by Lai in the middle of the first and then by ripping a four-goal run in the second quarter to take a 5–4 lead. The score remained tight throughout most of the third quarter as the teams traded goals. But Lai kicked off a five-goal run at the end of the third, and as goalkeeper Izzy Weintraub ’26 and the Cardinals’ defense held the Gulls to no goals in the fourth, the Red and Black secured a decisive 13–7 victory. For Weintraub’s impressive performance in goal, in which she totaled a career-high 11 saves, she was awarded her first-ever NESCAC Player of the Week honor.

McLaughlin attributed the team’s success in that game to their ability to remain unfazed by the early pressure and to continue to stay locked in.

“When we were down in that deficit, nobody seemed to get frazzled, and that was the first time I really saw every single girl on the field step up offensively and defensively,” McLaughlin said. “That was really awesome to see.”

Three days later, the Cardinals snagged another non-conference victory over the Catholic University of America (12–7) before returning to NESCAC play that weekend as they faced their first Little Three matchup of the season against No. 17 ranked Williams.

The score was tight in the first as the teams traded goals. But as the second quarter progressed, the Cardinals revved up the intensity and netted six goals in seven minutes to put them ahead 10–6 by the half. The Ephs responded with a four-goal run at the top of the third to tie the score up 10–10. But down to the wire, the Cardinals came through and ripped off four goals unanswered at the end of the fourth quarter to put the game away, 16–12. 

Lai, who was on fire that game with a career-high six goals, highlighted the team’s cohesion as a key part of how the Cards clinched the win.

“That was a big game of runs,” Lai said. “We started pulling away after the first half, but [Williams] really came back and punched in the third and tied us up at a few points. But in those big moments, we really try to lean on each other, and I think the experience on our team really helped us step up in that game.”

The Cards then nabbed two more non-conference wins over Endicott College (15–8) and St. Lawrence University (14–5).

Following these victories, the Cardinals faced arguably their toughest matchup of the season versus No. 1 ranked Middlebury, the reigning back-to-back National Championship winners. Despite the Panthers’ impressive accolades, Wesleyan knew that they were capable of winning. 

“I would say the energy going into that game was extremely positive,” Greer said. “We went into that game knowing they’re ranked number one in the country, but also with the belief that we deserve to have that number one spot and [that] there’s no reason that we can’t compete with this team.”

c/o Max Forstein

c/o Max Forstein

The Cards held Middlebury within two goals for the entirety of the game with an impressive defensive effort that forced 18 turnovers and gave Middlebury their lowest-scoring match of the season. Becca Dibble ’26 and Lindsey Diomede ’26 stepped up on the offensive end, each tallying two goals, which allowed Wesleyan to take the lead early in the fourth quarter. The Cardinals ultimately battled to a 10–12 loss, a major improvement from the 9–16 loss they suffered last season. 

“We played a really solid game,” Lai said. “It wasn’t like we caught [Middlebury] on an off game. We really challenged them in ways that a lot of teams haven’t in the past two years. And so obviously it was a tough loss considering we did have a lead even in the fourth quarter, we just fell a little short.”

Despite this disappointment, the Cardinals quickly got back on track with their midweek matchup against No. 17 Amherst on April 2. Although Amherst opened the scoring, Wesleyan responded emphatically with seven unanswered goals, ending the half with a 9–3 lead. Baine led the explosive offensive game with a career-high eight points, the most points in a single game by a Cardinal in over 15 years. The Red and Black finished with 17 goals, in doing so tying the all-time record for most goals against Amherst, crushing the Mammoths 17–8, and securing the Little Three title for the fourth consecutive season.

While winning the Little Three has become somewhat of a tradition in recent years, that hasn’t always been the case.

“[Head coach] Kim [Williams] does a really good job kind of reminding us how much it really means to win [the Little Three],” Lai said. “[It’s] just super exciting to see how the program has changed over the past few decades.”

Next on the schedule, the Cardinals are set to play No. 3 Tufts this weekend for their senior day matchup. Although the two teams engaged in a fierce rivalry last year, those tough losses are only motivating the Cardinals as they look ahead to the weekend. 

“It’s going to be used as fuel,” McLaughlin said. “That game is going to be about canceling outside noise and focusing on ourselves. And if our defense plays locked down, and our offense continues to move the ball the way they have been, we should have no problem beating that team. I have 100% confidence that we’ll come in and just get the job done.”

Georgia Adams can be reached at gadams@wesleyan.edu.

Erin Byerly can be reached at ebyerly@wesleyan.edu

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