The Emerson women’s lacrosse team formed a tight perimeter around the goal, as the visiting Mount Ida Mustangs circled closer, looking for a weak point to strike.
Amid the chaos, the Lions’ Macy Day was able to scoop up the ground ball. The defender shot out of the cluster of green jerseys and ran almost the entire distance of the field before she passed to attacker Mackenzie Johnson. As the ball was moved downfield and away from Emerson’s zone, the clock ran out on a Mount Ida man-up opportunity.
The Mustangs’ chances would prove almost nonexistent that night as the Lions limited them to only 10 shots on goal and held them scoreless in the second half to pave the way for a 10-3 win.
The Great Northeast Athletic Conference quarterfinal was the second meeting of the year between the two teams, as Emerson defeated Mount Ida 15-8 in its season opener. Kayla Dowd powered the offense with a season-high five goals, but it was the airtight defense that ultimately led the Lions to victory.
Head coach Megan Moore said the team watched videos of its opponents and familiarized itself with the Mustangs’ tendencies.
“We worked a lot on shutting down the key plays they like to run, which are a lot of draw and dumps and a lot of clusters at the top,” she said, referring to the Mustangs’ attempts to have one player suck in defenders before passing the ball to an open teammate cutting across the goalmouth.
The Mustangs had a chance to pull ahead midway through the first half when Krystie Zoch and Tracie Lombardo were both given yellow cards in a span of five minutes. With the player advantage, Mount Ida’s attack surrounded the Emerson goal, looking for openings but finding none. The Lions played physically and rotated support over whenever an opponent broke free. When the Mustangs did manage to get shots off, goalie Emily Saeger was always in perfect position to snare the ball.
Both Moore and her players attributed the success to the team’s ability to talk.
“Once our communication got up, that was key, and we hustled after every ground ball,” said Day. “We didn’t stop or let down until we had the ball.”
Day also said that having a formidable presence like Saeger in net makes her job easier.
“It’s almost a relief in a way, because she’ll talk to us and tell us where to go and when to go,” she said. “She’s kind of the hands of the whole operation.”
The junior stopped seven of 10 shots against Mount Ida and currently leads the GNAC in save percentage with 54 percent. She was honored by the Athletics Department as the team’s most valuable player at its annual banquet Wednesday.
Emerson began the second half with a 5-3 lead and quickly widened the gap with another Dowd goal. The midfielder said she was motivated to extend her final season.
“This is one of my last games, so I had nothing to lose,” said Dowd. “I wanted to win really bad, so I think that’s what really fueled me — and the energy of my teammates, of course.”
The remainder of the game was all Emerson. The defense continued its strong play, as Day and Marissa Nobile made several long runs up field, and each time they were able to get back in position with ease.
Moore said the young defenders have shown great improvement from the start of the season up until now.
“A lot of it has come from taking ownership of the defensive roles,” Moore said. “They’ve really grown to understand that if they have a job to do ... they’re going to take care of it.”
Day began her lacrosse career her junior year of high school, and Nobile had never played the sport until this season. Dowd, the Lions’ lone senior, said that while the team may not be as experienced, it makes up for it with its spirit.
“I think we have a lot of heart and determination, and I think that goes a long way on the field,” she said. “It’s all about ‘if you want it, you can get it.’ ”
Emerson will look to extend its playoff run when it plays Lasell today at 3:30 p.m.