SYRACUSE, N.Y. - It wasn't the way they wanted it to end, but Sunday's NCAA Tournament First Round game wrapped up a successful 2012 season for the No. 9 Dartmouth women's lacrosse team.
Falling to No. 4 Syracuse, 15-5, in the Carrier Dome, the Big Green finish the year with a 12-5 record and as champions of the Ivy League Tournament.
The score does not reflect just how close this game was for more than three-quarters of the afternoon. Dartmouth did not trail by more than two goals until roughly 12 minutes remained on the clock.
Sophomore goalkeeper and Ivy League Tournament Most Outstanding Player Kristen Giovanniello (Old Brookville, N.Y.) did all she could to help her team, stopping 11 shots, including six in the first half when the two teams were locked in hotly-contested match.
"We thought she played well, and I'm certainly glad we have her coming back next year," head coach Amy Patton said of her starting goalkeeper. "We think she is so talented that she could have made a couple of more saves, but she made them (Syracuse) earn most of their goals."
It was in those first 30 minutes that Dartmouth played an even game with the home team, heading into the locker room tied at three apiece after senior co-captain and Ivy League Player of the Year Sarah Plumb (Wellesley, Mass.) found the back of the net with six seconds remaining for her 37th of the spring and the 98th of her career.
Early on, the Big Green's game plan of slowing down the potent Syracuse offensive attack was affective. Dartmouth scored the opening tally 4:03 into the game after controlling the initial possession for that entire period. Senior Kirsten Goldberg (Cockeysville, Md.) was the one to put Dartmouth on top with that first marker, the result of a free-position shot after getting fouled inside the arc.
A back-and-forth affair followed as Syracuse would take a one-goal lead only to see Dartmouth pull even soon thereafter.
Junior attacker Hana Bowers (Old Greenwich, Conn.) scored two goals on the afternoon, including the first of the second half for the visitors to make it 5-4 with 18:03 left.
The Big Green's defense held off the Orange for several more minutes, but key draw controls allowed Syracuse's offense to set up and put the game away with the clock dwindling down.
"We had confidence coming in against one of the best teams in the country," Patton said. "Playing Syracuse you have to play 60 great minutes, and we did that for about the first 40. It came down to that five-minute stretch where they took advantage of our mistakes. After that, we had to open it up, and a good team like Syracuse is going to keep taking advantage.
"They are some of the best shooters in the country and we contained and frustrated them in the first half, but they took advantage of the five-minute gap because that's what great players do," Patton continued.
Two of those to have strong showings for the Orange were Alyssa Murray and Sarah Holden as both scored four times.
The appearance in the NCAA Tournament was the second in as many years for Dartmouth after earning the conference's automatic berth last weekend with the program's first Ivy League Tournament Championship, beating Penn, 6-4, in the title game.
"It's been a great ride this year and we accomplished something we never have before by winning the Ivy League Tournament," Plumb said after her final game in a Dartmouth uniform. "We wish we could have moved on further, but I know this team is in a position to be stronger and better heading into next year."