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Big Green Defrosts After Topping UConn

Dartmouth College defenders surround Connecticut's Liz Hyde and force her into a turnover Wednesday during the teams' nonconference game at Scully-Fahey Field. Valley News - Tris Wykes

Dartmouth College defenders surround Connecticut's Liz Hyde and force her into a turnover Wednesday during the teams' nonconference game at Scully-Fahey Field. Valley News - Tris Wykes

Hanover — A banner ad on the Dartmouth College athletics website invites visitors to sign up for a streaming video subscription. “Catch all the live coverage as winter turns into spring,” reads the text.

On Wednesday at Scully-Fahey Field, that turn seemed distant as the Big Green and Connecticut women’s lacrosse teams clashed with temperatures in the teens. Snow squalls and gusts of biting wind made the surroundings seem even colder, although Dartmouth was left with a warm glow after its 14-11, nonconference victory.

“I think it makes our kids mentally tougher and in some cases, it helps us win games,” Dartmouth coach Amy Patton said of the frigid weather. “We talk a lot about the elements and how we can’t control them and how we let that go.

“Today, we controlled the fight in us against an athletic, feisty team. We had to match it and draw out our own fight, but in a poised way.”

UConn took a 2-0 lead before surrendering the next four goals. Three of them came from junior attacker Sarah Byrne, who finished with six tallies and two assists. Dartmouth led 8-5 at halftime, and although the Huskies pulled within two goals on five occasions in the second half, Byrne said she wasn’t overly concerned.

“I don’t think we ever got nervous that they were going to come back,” said the West Hartford, Conn., native, whose team improved to 2-0. “We had a couple of turnovers, but we maintained our composure and our defense got some big stops and carried (the ball) over into the attacking end. That was inspiring for our attackers to see.”

Senior Liz Calby also had a strong day, posting four goals and an assist. The attacker did the same during Dartmouth’s 15-7 victory at New Hampshire last weekend. Lindsey Allard had two goals and an assist and Jaclyn Leto had a goal and an assist.

On the defensive end, the Big Green received 10 saves from Kristen Giovanniello, who helped force UConn to score on just 1 of 6 free-position shots. Defender Danielle Lisovicz forced three of her team’s seven turnovers.

Giovanniello is “absolutely fantastic, and when you have an intense defense that’s hyped up and yelling when you’re getting (ready), I don’t blame (opponents) for getting nervous,” Byrne said. “She has a confidence that’s really obvious in her body language.”

Byrne also credited Dartmouth’s defense for making her and her offensive mates better during training.

“Our preparation was really good, and it makes the games a lot easier when you have people in practice who make it a lot harder for you to get to goal,” she said. “Our dodgers got pushed really hard by our defense all week.”

But what about this weather? The calendar will soon turn to March, but the forecast offers not even a hint of spring.

“It’s not something we’re consumed by,” Byrne said. “Of course there are points in the game where it’s hard to feel your stick, but it’s easy to forget that when you have teammates on the sidelines cheering really loudly for you. You focus more on connecting with them than on the cold.”

Dartmouth finished third in the Ivy League last season after winning it in 2011 and finishing second in 2012. However, the Big Green reached the NCAA tournament for a third consecutive season and advanced to the second round for the first time since 2006. This season’s Ivy opener is Saturday against Yale at Scully-Fahey Field, followed by visits from Boston University and Albany and a trip to No. 7 Florida.

Patton’s teams have traditionally peaked during late April and May. The fact that this year’s version is off to a hot start is a bonus.

“The UNH game we came out really hard and attacked them and controlled pretty much the whole game,” the coach said. “This game, we came out slow and sluggish and had trouble with their ride, but we made adjustments. This year, when we make mistakes, we’re learning from them and we’re letting them go and that’s awesome.”

Notes: Former Notre Dame coach Tracy Coyne, hired in July with some fanfare, is no longer with the team. Christine Anneberg, a former assistant and volunteer with the Big Green, has replaced her. There have been nine switches in the assistant coaching lineup since the start of the 2010 season. The program usually has two paid assistants and a volunteer. … Wednesday’s game was the teams’ first meeting. UConn has had a program since 1997. … Neither the Big Green nor the Huskies (1-2) are in the national top 20, but both received votes this week. … UConn was 13-5 and reached the NCAA tournament last season. … Dartmouth’s players wore long-sleeved undershirts with small hoods that hung down the back of their jerseys. Several players pulled them up for cover during the contest. … UConn’s jerseys have a sleeve patch with the initials of former goaltender Brittney Testa, who died in a car crash last December. Testa played her prep lacrosse at Kimball Union Academy. … Attendance was announced at 178.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com or 603-727-3227.