Coming into Saturday’s game, Vanderbilt University had lost its last five games, winning its last game exactly one month ago on March 9 against the University of Denver. However, the Owls were prepared for a tough conference battle at Geasey Field.
“Once you get into conference play it’s a whole different game,” junior attacker Carly Demato said. “Last year we lost to them and this year we just came back with a vengeance … Big East play is so different. You can lose every game out of conference and do great in your conference and go to the tournament. So once you get in conference, especially if you had a bad out-of season, you’re so hungry in conference. So it was a big win for us today definitely.”
Fighting through flurries, wind, rain and cold temperatures, the Owls (9-3, 1-1 Big East) defeated the Commodores 7-3 to earn their first Big East win of the season.
The win is the first time the Owls have won a game this season when they have scored less than 10 goals. All of the team’s losses are in games when they have scored less than 10 goals.
“I think we could have scored more goals today in a faster paced game but because of the challenge of the weather and the sticks and the sloppiness of the game, we chose to play a much more possession offense type game and really tried not to feed balls into the middle too much because we were turning the ball over that way,” coach Bonnie Rosen said.
Play was back-and-forth in the opening 10 minutes. Senior midfielder Emma Dagres’ second goal of the game gave Vanderbilt a 3-2 lead with 20 minutes, 39 seconds remaining. The Owls went on a 4-0 run to close out the first half and take the lead for good. Junior midfielder Morgan Glassford tied the game with her second goal of the game. Demato added a goal with 34 seconds left in the half and senior midfielder Nicole Tiernan added the seventh goal in the second half.
Glassford also had two draw controls in the game, giving her 57 for the season and tying her with Marie DesMarais for third all-time in a single season.
The Owls’ defense held Vanderbilt scoreless for 49:39, including all of the second half after Dagres’ goal. By using individual matchups, senior defenders Summer Jaros and Kara Stroup, and senior midfielders Nicole Tiernan and Kirstie Connor helped limit Vanderbilt’s three leading scorers to one goal. Redshirt-senior goalkeeper Jaqi Kakalecik, made three saves in the second half to protect the lead.
“Jaqi just seems to keep getting better and better throughout games and I know some of those early goals would have rattled a less mature, confident goalkeeper and she just kind of focused in and got better throughout the day and so did our defense,” Rosen said. “So the combination of the two allowed us to still deal with some of the turnovers that came out of a little bit of the weather and some of the pressure that Vanderbilt put on.”
“I said to my coach [Jennifer Wong] before the game, ‘I feel really lucky that I play girls lacrosse with a yellow ball instead of boys with the white,’ because it stood out really well against the snow, but it definitely was difficult to make the saves when my hands were cold and that was probably the biggest challenge I faced today,” Kakalecik said.
The Owls have four more conference games in the next two weeks, starting with Connecticut on Wednesday.
“It’s a huge win for us,” Demato said. “I mean, just every win matter, but this is a big one [because] Vanderbilt’s a good team. If we want to get in this tournament we’re going to have to pull out these wins like this and it gives us great confidence going forward.”
Evan Easterling can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Evan_Easterling.