Defense has been the focus for the Lehigh women’s lacrosse team this season.
Backed behind the 12th-ranked scoring defense in the country, the Mountain Hawks (9-2, 3-1 Patriot) are off to their best start in school history since 2010.
“I think our defensive unit has been effective all year,” junior goalkeeper Taylor Tvedt said. “Our goals against average is less than eight, so we are expecting to hold every team under eight.”
Lehigh achieved that goal against a Big Ten conference opponent at Rutgers University, holding it to five goals in a 9-5 win Monday at the Ulrich Sports Complex. The Scarlet Knights entered the game averaging 14.25 goals in their last four games, including a 19-goal performance against Patriot League rival Lafayette College.
Lehigh jumped out to an 8-2 lead in the first half behind a hat trick from sophomore attacker Haley Wentzel coupled with Tvedt only surrendering two goals in the first frame. Despite a frantic start to the second half, Lehigh settled down and came away with a victory.
Tvedt tallied eight saves with six of those coming in the second half.
“Sometimes when we lacked communication, (Tvedt) stepped up and made a huge save,” junior midfielder Julianne D’Orazio said. “She had our backs and got better as the game went on.”
After Rutgers trimmed its deficit to 9-5, Tvedt halted a free position shot by Rutgers attacker Joanna Reilly with 12 minutes left in the game. Tvedt added three more saves in the final eight minutes to hold off a Scarlet Knight comeback.
Coach Jill Redfern also praised Tvedt for her performance, noting its domino effect.
“Great goalkeeping at key moments gives you a lot of momentum,” Redfern said. “It also shuts down some of their strong shooters.”
D’Orazio was effective on both ends of the field, accumulating two goals while also forcing two turnovers. She has consistently been the anchor of the Mountain Hawk defense this season according to Redfern. D’Orazio ranks second in the Patriot League in caused turnovers per game with a mark of 1.80.
“As a midfielder, I have to connect the offensive and defensive aspects of the game,” D’Orazio said. “Whenever I’m on defense, I try to get the ball back and transition defensive stops into offensive goals.”
The Hawks’ goals against average lowered to 7.27 per game, which puts them first in the Patriot League. Lehigh will look to maintain its defensive prowess when the Hawks return to action against Army West Point Saturday night.
“Defense is something we work on and take pride in,” Redfern said. “Controlling the pace on the offensive end will help us defensively. Our defenders will have a little bit of a break and fresher legs. Defense wins championships.”
And defense has put the Mountain Hawks in good position to hoist up the Patriot League Championship trophy in May.