Women’s lacrosse defeats consecutive ranked opponents to top NESCAC standings

By Levi Lorenzo '19

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The Hamilton women’s lacrosse team clinched a share of first place in the NESCAC for the regular season with its 7-6 victory at Trinity on Saturday. The Continentals jumped out to a fast start against the Bantams, scoring the game’s first three goals, and never lost the lead. Trinity threatened in the waning minutes, but Hamilton hung on to secure the victory. 

Morgan Fletcher ’17 sparked the Continental attack, scoring the first two goals of the game, Hamilton’s last regular season contest. Kara Pooley ’19 pushed the lead to three with 16:50 left in the first half. Hamilton would never extend its lead beyond three goals, but two scores from Casey File ’17 and one each from Darby Philbrick ’18 and Alex Hendry ’19 kept Hamilton out in front. Philbrick also registered an assist on File’s first goal, while Skyler Simson ’20 tallied one on File’s second. Hendry’s goal gave Hamilton a 7-4 lead with 12:30 remaining in the game. Neither team scored again until the game’s final three minutes, in which Trinity found the back of the net twice in a man-advantage scenario. The Bantams cut Hamilton’s lead to one with 2:22 remaining and won the subsequent draw. On the final possession, Trinity took three shots but could not convert. Hannah Rubin ’17 made a crucial save with 25 seconds remaining and, with 10 seconds left, Trinity turned the ball over allowing Hamilton to secure the victory. 

By defeating Trinity, Hamilton put an exclamation point on a stellar end to the regular season. The Continentals head to the postseason on a five-game win streak; they have won 10 of their last 11 games following a 1-3 start to the season. Philbrick credited the team’s ability to respond to the slow start to the players’ determination: “I think after our game against Wesleyan early on in our season, our team had this realization that it’s going to take grit to produce the season we want.” She added that, “since that loss, we have gone into every game with grittiness at the forefront.” Rubin echoed this sentiment: “We started the season with a few tough losses that really made everyone reassess, learn a lot and pushed us even harder to work towards our goals. The adversity at the beginning of the season made us tougher and has certainly helped us to pull off some crazy one-goal wins.”

For their success, the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA) awarded Hamilton the number nine ranking in their most recent poll. The April 24 poll was the first this season in which Hamilton was ranked in the top 10. In the NCAA rankings released on April 26, Hamilton was awarded the top spot in the New England Region. The NCAA uses these rankings to determine the NCAA Championship Tournament field.

The NESCAC is a strong conference, however, and NESCAC teams occupy the top seven spots in the NCAA New England Region rankings. The same seven teams are ranked in the top 20 by the IWLCA. Needless to say, the NESCAC tournament will challenge the Continentals greatly. Heading into Wednesday evening, the Continentals sit in first place in the NESCAC with an 8-2 conference record. Hamilton has completed its NESCAC schedule, while three other teams sit at 7-2 with one game remaining. The three 7-2 teams, Colby, Middlebury and Trinity are all in action this Wednesday; Colby hosts Bates, Middlebury hosts Williams and Trinity plays at Amherst. Should all three teams lose, Hamilton will be the top seed in the NESCAC playoffs and will host the NESCAC final four on May 6-7 so long as they win their quarterfinal game. Hamilton could also clinch the top seed if Williams defeats Middlebury. If Middlebury and Trinity win, but Colby loses, Hamilton will take the two-seed. If all three teams win, or all but Trinity win, the head-to-head tiebreakers fail to break the tie. In this scenario, whether or not Hamilton claims the top seed depends on the results of all the Wednesday games. Two things are definite, however: Hamilton will make the playoffs and will host a quarterfinal game. 

Key contributors to Hamilton’s successful season include Fletcher, a two-time All-American who leads the team with 38 points and 33 ground balls, Philbrick, who has scored a team-leading 27 goals and also has a team-high 33 draw controls, along with Nora Klemmer ’17 and Pooley, who have each registered 31 points. Ellison Sherrill ’17, Taylor Ryan ’17, Maddie Fitzpatrick ’17 and Gabby O’Brien ’19 lead Hamilton’s defense which has yielded just 6.60 goals per game in the NESCAC, making Hamilton’s defense the best in the conference in conference play. Goalkeepers Hannah Burall ’19 and Rubin anchor the defense; Burrall, who has started 14 of 15 contests, is 7-2 with a 45.6  save percentage and a 7.40 goals against average, while Rubin, who has played in 10 games, is 4-2 with a 45.0 save percentage and a 6.95 goals against average. 

While there have been outstanding individual performances, the players stress that the team’s success is a result of a collective effort. Rubin comments that, “We have had the deepest team that I have been on,” adding, “Everyone has stepped up and contributes whether it’s on the field, sideline or locker room and it allows us to play as a cohesive unit.” Sherill asserts that their success “really was a mentality thing: we all bought in to giving this season everything we’ve got, and we did that from the minute we stepped on campus in August.” Rubin stressed the same point saying, “We all bought into the process of getting better and it is the reason why we are currently first in the NESCAC.”

The regular season was a success, but Hamilton is not done. The playoffs pose a unique challenge, so Hamilton must prepare well. Philbrick notes that, “I think this week is a great opportunity for us to master what we’ve already been excelling at and make it perfect.” Specifically, Philbrick adds that because the Continentals do not yet know who their first opponent will be, “We are preparing ourselves for anything and everything. We’re solidifying different defenses that can be played against different offensive formations, and we’re prepping our offense to be able to play against any type of defense.” Sherill contributes that, “we’re focusing on adding a couple defensive sets that we can pull out of our back pocket to throw off the opposing offense. We’re adding more looks into offensive sets, and we’ll work on game scenarios like man up, man down, stalls and press up rides.”

Hamilton hopes that the hard work will pay dividends; specifically, they seek a NESCAC title. Due to no small effort on their part, a NESCAC title is in reach. The players know that they have what it takes to win. “We’ll take home the NESCAC championship if we continue to do what we do best - which is support each other through every moment,” says Philbrick. Rubin remarks that, “There is a sense of confidence and calmness going into this post season which is crucial, as we will need composure throughout all these games.” She added, emphatically: “We truly believe that, if we play our game, we can win the NESCAC title.”

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