With three games left in the regular season, it’s do or die for the field hockey team.
This weekend, the Bulldogs (6-8, 1-4 Ivy) take Johnson Field twice for a pair of important late-season contests. Tonight, the Elis go for their second Ivy League win of the season against Columbia (4-10, 1-4). The Bulldogs then seek to avenge losses they suffered to a pair of Boston teams two weeks ago when No. 11 Boston College visits on Sunday.
The Elis cannot lose either of this weekend’s games if they wish to remain eligible for a spot in the ECAC tournament. A team can only be considered for the tournament if it has a winning record.
“We know we need to come out with two wins this weekend,” midfielder Lindsay Collins ’07 said. “We’re focused on getting those two wins.”
Columbia’s record is deceptive — this year’s Lions are a vastly improved squad. In 2003, Columbia went 1-16, scored only 10 goals and was shut out 10 times. The last time the Lions and Bulldogs squared off, on Oct. 31, 2003, Yale won 5-0.
This year’s Lions took only seven games to reach 10 goals. And despite having a losing record, Columbia has played its opponents fairly evenly this season. The Lions have scored only five fewer goals than their opponents, 19-24, and have been outshot only 171-209.
Columbia’s losses have been very close, including a 3-1 loss to Princeton and a 2-1 contest to Brown. Three of the Lions’ 10 losses have come in overtime and another went to double overtime. Columbia has only allowed one opponent to score more than three goals this season.
“This year [Columbia is] unrecognizable,” defender Marly Gillece ’06 said. “They’re improved a lot due to a new coaching staff and turnover. They’re a very different team, and they need to be taken seriously.”
Fortunately for the Elis, the Lions have lost some of the spark they showed earlier this season. The Lions are on a four-game losing streak during which they have only scored twice. Coming off of their 4-0 victory over Vermont last Sunday, the Elis may be the team with the momentum tonight.
In contrast, the season Boston College has been having should limit Bulldog optimism. The Eagles have not lost a game since a 3-2 overtime loss to No. 6 University of Connecticut Oct. 6. All four of BC’s losses have come against ranked teams — No. 4 University of Maryland, No. 6 UConn, No. 16 University of Virginia and No. 20 Syracuse University.
The Eagles have dominated their opponents this season both offensively and defensively. BC has averaged 3.12 goals per game and has outscored the opposition 58-24. The Eagles hold a 295-160 edge in shooting and have drawn 140 penalty corners to their opponents’ 88.
Heading up the BC offense is forward Sabrina Lazzari, a junior. Lazzari leads the Eagles with an astounding 50 points this season. She also is first on the team in goals with 22. She has been honored twice in 2004 as the Big East Offensive Player of the Week.
On defense, BC has limited opponents to 1.29 goals per game. Junior goalkeeper Jillian Savoy boasts 82 saves, a 1.25 goals-against average and seven shutouts this season. And senior defender Kerri Doherty’s performance this season has earned her one of 38 spots in the 2004 NFHCA Division I North/South Senior All-Star game.
“I think we need to play very smart,” midfielder Harrier Thayer ’08 said. “We need to look for ball possession. BC is going to be a huge game, but if we work our best and play like we can it’s going to be a good game — we’ll be good competition for them.”
One area where the Bulldogs must perform this weekend is on penalty corners. The Elis have not scored a penalty corner since their 3-2 overtime victory over Dartmouth Oct. 9.
“It’s crucial that our corners are on,” Collins said. “We’re going to need them. They’re coming together — we just need them to fall. We need to be able to lean on them.”
One major positive for the Elis on offense will be the return of forward Trish Bissett ’07. Bissett, one of the team’s leading scorers last year, suffered a concussion Sept. 5 against Holy Cross — only the second game of the Elis’ season. While she is not sure how much she will play after nearly two months out, Bissett said she believes she will see some time on the field tomorrow.
“I’m extremely excited,” she said. “I thought I wouldn’t play for the rest of the season.”
Several team members said that her return would be a huge boost if the Elis earn a berth in the ECAC tournament.
“The fact that she’s back and able to practice gives us a huge incentive to get those three games added to our schedule,” captain Chrissy Hall ’05 said. “With a few practices she could be back to where she was. It’s great to have her for the rest of the season.”
While the Bulldogs will undoubtedly be feeling the pressure this weekend, they know that staying collected — not qualifying for the ECAC tournament — must be the team’s top priority.
“When we as a team put a lot of pressure on ourselves, we don’t play well,” forward Buffy Topp ’05 said. “We have to take one game at a time. Columbia’s first — we’re going to take care of that game, and then move on. This weekend is a great challenge, but we can come out with two wins if we play the way we can.”