Bulldogs nearly quell No. 3 UConn

When the final whistle blew last night, the scoreboard was not in the Bulldogs’ favor, but that didn’t stop the field hockey team from acknowledging that the intensity of the game they played was cause for celebration.

The Elis (0-2) fell to No. 3 UConn (4-0) yesterday, 1-0, in their first away match of the season. But the underdog squad didn’t give the nationally ranked Huskies the victory easily. Even though play was focused on Yale’s end of the field for much of the game, the stellar defense stood strong against UConn’s offensive bombardment, holding the Huskies scoreless for the entire first half despite a staggering 17 shot attempts. Even the seven UConn penalty corners were insufficient to beat out goalkeeper Charlotte Goins ’10, who made 10 saves in the first half alone.

“Even though we had a lot of [penalty] corners, I think this is the best I’ve seen us play,” fullback Beth Raveche ’08 said. “In fact, it attests to the fact that we did even more of an amazing job, considering we had so many corners and we still held them off.”

Husky back Jennifer Kleinhans was the one to break the game open at last, blasting one past Goins at 42:48 off an assist from Nikki Harmony and giving the Huskies a 1-0 lead that they would hold for the rest of the game. UConn finished with a formidable 26-shot tally to the Bulldogs’ three attempts.

“Our biggest thing was not having as many opportunities to capitalize as they had,” head coach Pam Stuper said. “We only had three, which wasn’t enough to get one in. We didn’t get too many opportunities, but we did have some nice ones, and I think we definitely generated some attacking plays that scared them.”

The Elis had just a single penalty corner opportunity all match — a “really nice” shot that was deflected by UConn goalie Andrea Mainiero and went wide, Stuper said. Mainiero finished with three saves to record her second shutout of the season.

The Bulldogs aren’t looking at the loss as a disappointment, though. Their solid offensive play coupled with a defense that nearly stymied one of the best teams in the nation proves that they can go head-to-head with the sport’s top competitors, captain and midfielder Harriet Thayer ’08 said.

“I think of it as the greatest game I’ve ever played in field hockey — there’s no doubt in my mind,” Thayer said. “We came off the field and everyone was congratulating each other on an amazing game. We gave 110 percent, and you could tell that we were thinking, ‘We could do this. We could take down the number three team in the nation.’”

The powerful defense is all the more impressive given that defensive play was a struggle for the Bulldogs in the past, Stuper said. But this year, she said, they’ve definitely turned that problem around.

Now, the Elis look ahead to the upcoming match against Ivy foe Princeton (0-2), when they will travel to New Jersey for their first conference match of the season. The Tigers are coming off a difficult 5-1 loss to No. 6 Penn State, and if the Bulldogs continue their current level of play, keeping up with Princeton should not be a problem, Raveche said.

“If we play with the same intensity and the same skill we did today, I think we can take Princeton, no question,” she said.

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