William and Mary pulled out a narrow victory over visiting Richmond Saturday, hanging on to win 12-11. The Tribe (3-6) gave up four straight goals late in the second half but stopped the Spiders (3-7) from spoiling the day at Martin Family Stadium.
“[The win] was extremely important,” head coach Brook Ireland said. “We’ve had some problems with our basic fundamentals and holding on to the ball, or silly turnovers, but I think today we really executed our game plan.”
The Spiders asserted themselves early in the contest, methodically weaving through the Tribe defense and pressuring the College’s attackers to keep the Tribe away from the net. Richmond scored the game’s first two goals and threatened to turn the contest into a rout.
The College responded quickly, however. Junior attacker Taelor Salmon ripped through the Spiders’ defense, caught a pass from senior midfielder Katie Stillwell, and netted a goal to stop a 13-minute Tribe scoring drought and cut the Spider lead to one.
The College looked lost when Richmond’s Bailey Zerr scored three times in three minutes to bring her squad’s lead to 6-3 with 8 minutes, 30 seconds left in the first half.
Sophomore attacker Ellen Shaffrey kept the Tribe alive with three goals and one assist in the first half. The Tribe then scored three unanswered goals at the end of the half to force a 6-6 tie at intermission.
The two teams logged 14 shots a-piece in the period, while the College held a 9-4 advantage in draw controls. Junior goalkeeper Colleen Nofi stopped seven shots to slow a relentless Spider offensive attack.
The Tribe kept its momentum going into the second half, scoring in less than two minutes when Salmon ripped a shot from the right side to earn her third goal of the day and the Tribe’s first lead at 7-6.
A goal by junior attacker Jenna Dougherty and Shaffrey’s fourth score pulled the College’s run to six straight, giving the Tribe a 9-6 lead.
The Tribe surrendered a goal to Richmond’s Caitlin Fifield on a free position shot but nonetheless continued to dominate the game.
Senior attacker Kyrstin Mackrides responded with two straight goals, and then freshman attacker Zoe Boger ripped a shot into the net between multiple Richmond defenders.
The goal ended a 9-1 Tribe run, a dominant stretch that created a 12-7 advantage with 9:19 remaining.
The contest, however, was far from over. Richmond applied punishing defensive pressure, snaring nine ground balls and forcing five Tribe turnovers in the second half.
The Spiders played their best lacrosse of the day over the next four minutes, scoring four times in quick succession and cutting the Tribe lead to 12-11. With the dominant advantage down to just a single goal and just over five minutes on the clock, the Tribe had to ratchet up its defense to avoid a complete collapse.
“We knew we were going to pull it out no matter what the game situation was because today was just a great game,” Shaffrey said. “Everybody was ready from the beginning; everybody was fired up.”
The Tribe responded to the threat with poise, controlling the ball for most of the final five minutes and denying Richmond multiple scoring chances.
The Spiders held the ball with one minute remaining, managing to fire a close shot on goal, but Nofi deflected the shot, earning her ninth and most important save of the day.
The Tribe gathered the resulting ground ball and did not surrender possession as the clock’s final seconds ticked down and sealed the victory.
Although she made the last-minute save, Nofi gave all credit to her teammates.
“There’s definitely anxiety when you’re watching the clock and waiting for it to run down,” Nofi said. “But our defense came up huge.”
The win came at a crucial time for the College, which had lost three straight games and 6 of 7 against a schedule loaded with highly ranked opponents.
The Tribe travels to Farmville, Va. to take on Longwood Saturday.