Losses can either frustrate and sadden a team, or teach it something. The field hockey team chose the latter option this past weekend.
The Bulldogs (1-5, 0-1 Ivy) finished up their Midwestern road trip with defeats at the hands of Northwestern (5-4) and Stanford (3-6), but the contests showed the team what needs to be fixed before Ivy League competition begins. On Saturday night in Evanston, Ill., the Elis fell to the Wildcats, 3-1, thanks to a tough Northwestern attack. Sunday featured a similar story, with the Cardinals downing Old Blue, 2-0.
Coming off of a 4-0 loss to Michigan State on Thursday that saw the Bulldogs struggle defensively, the Elis tried to step up their efforts in the backfield against the Wildcats and the Cardinal. Despite the scores, midfielder Rachel Lentz ’07 said the team made substantial defensive progress as the trip went on.
“When you look at the first game, Michigan State, and then at the games against Northwestern and Stanford, you see that there were vast improvements on defense,” Lentz said. “In between games [Yale head coach] Pam [Stuper] had us watch game film so that we could visually fine tune the areas that we need to improve upon and then implement those changes.”
On Saturday, the Wildcats peppered goalie Elizabeth Friedlander ’07 with 25 shots, 16 of which were on goal. Friedlander did a good job dealing with the battering, recording 13 saves.
Friedlander also had to deal with 12 Northwestern penalty corners. But the Bulldogs ‘defensive corner unit fought hard and only allowed one of those corners to be converted into a goal.
“We gave up more defensive corners than we would like to, but it shows how strong our defensive corner unit is because the ratio of how many they scored on to how many we gave up is very small,” Lentz said. “The defensive corner unit did a tremendous job and kept us in a lot of games.”
The lone bright spot of the Eli offense that night was Lentz’s unassisted goal in the first period. The Bulldogs got 12 shots off, nine of which were on goal.
The Bulldogs had issues reminiscent of Saturday during Sunday’s game. Once again, they were outshot by a wide margin, and they allowed 12 penalty corners while getting only seven themselves. Friedlander finished with 12 saves, allowing two goals to the Cardinals.
But this time, the second period was much better than the first. Penalty corners and shots were dead even, showing good changes made by the Bulldogs after the break. The Cardinal was also unable to score a single goal off of a corner.
Unfortunately for the Elis, they were unable to score at all — corner or no.
“We kept trying to stretch out their defense,” midfielder Lindsay Collins ’07 said. “We got several breakaways and had some really good scoring opportunities on those. We are definitely creating score opportunities, we just need to finish it. We are going to work hard in practice this week [on offense]. We’ll get it.”
Lentz said the offensive corner unit has played well in the limited chances it has gotten.
Team captain and midfielder Heather Orrico ’07 said she was proud of the team’s efforts and improvements.
“Michigan State wasn’t our best game, but I sat there in the huddle Saturday and Sunday and there was nothing more we could have done,” she said. “Every single person left everything on the field [this weekend]. The girls take criticism and suggestions and implement them, which is not something that is easy to do in a 24-hour period. If we continue to have a learning curve like that, we will totally be fine for our league and non-league games.”
Orrico said how fast the Elis are adjusting is especially noteworthy, because it is not something she has seen much of in previous seasons.
Now, before its game against Cornell next weekend, the team is focusing on the finishing touches. Instead of seeming worried about their ability to win, the Bulldogs seem ready for the upcoming games thanks to team camaraderie.
“I think the team chemistry is the best it has ever been,” Lentz said. “Because we are so close-knit, we can come off of our losses without them affecting our mental game that much. We trust one another, we want to do well for one another as much as we want to do well for ourselves, and that will help us out in the end.”