On paper, the Elis were outshot, 12-6, and ultimately beaten, 1-0, by a local rival last night.
But considering that the local rival was nationally-ranked No. 18 University of Connecticut (7-3), and that the Huskies beat the Elis (2-6, 0-2 Ivy) 8-1 last fall, the Bulldogs may have found the game they needed to take big steps forward.
“We played 70 minutes of good hockey,” forward Rachel Lentz ’07 said. “There were no lulls, and we kept our heads up the entire time. We played up to their level, and we were definitely in the game the entire time. It could have gone either way.”
The only goal of the game came with one minute to play in the first half. UConn’s Barbie Steffen was able to emerge from a scramble at the top of the Yale circle and fire a shot past goalie Elizabeth Friedlander ’07, who finished the night with five saves.
The Bulldogs improved on an anemic first-half offense — one penalty corner and one shot — with a strong second frame. For a 10-minute period, the Elis kept the ball exclusively in the UConn end of the field and produced five shots on five penalty corners.
The Bulldogs’ offensive penalty corner unit is composed of all new members this season, and growing pains showed at times against the strong UConn defensive corner unit. The Elis only managed to produce one solid shot on goal from their second-half corner opportunities, a rocket from defender Heather Orrico ’07 from the top of the circle that UConn goalkeeper Melissa Bostwick just stopped with a layout save.
Yale head coach Pam Stuper said that while offensive corners will be a major focus before Saturday’s game against Rhode Island, the UConn defensive corner unit was particularly tough. The Eli unit has been coming along well this season, she said.
“We got some shots off, but not any rebounds,” Stuper said. “Their goalie and defense were able to clear the ball and not give us the second shot that we sometimes gave them. With youth on the corner team, you need a second shot, and they didn’t give it to us.”
The Elis also seemed to have trouble moving the ball during the game, resorting to long passes rather than shorter, controlled ones. But the strategy did work at times. At one point in the second half, a long cross from the right sideline hit midfielder Harriet Thayer ’08 at the right edge of the UConn circle, resulting in a near miss and then a penalty corner.
“They forced us to play a bigger ball game because they were really on top of us,” Orrico said. “We couldn’t dribble as much; we had to pass. We could have used the midfield more, but it was just a different type of game, a different style, and we still did a good job with it.”
The Huskies, who have a slew of games against ranked opponents coming up, said they were glad to leave Johnson Field with a win.
“It was a tough fight the whole way through,” Bostwick said. “They gave us a lot of pressure and we really had to step it up.”
For their part, the Elis are excited at their prospects for the rest of the season.
“We’re in a great place heading into the second half of the season, and we’re still going to have the opportunity to win some games,” Stuper said. “There’s still opportunities to take the growth we’ve made and convert them to wins.”