No. 6 Michigan St. visits struggling f. hockey in Elm City

The field hockey team will seek to turn its fortunes around today in a faceoff against an unfamiliar foe in an unfamiliar arena.

After three hard-fought losses in their first three games, the Bulldogs (0-3, 0-1 Ivy) travel to Hempstead, New York to take on Hofstra (3-2) in the inaugural match of the brand-new Hofstra Field Hockey Arena. Following the match against Hofstra, the Bulldogs return home to Johnson Field for the first time since their season opener against Providence to take on No. 6 Michigan State (6-0) this Sunday at noon.

Hofstra is coming off a lengthy 11-day layoff that followed a solid performance in the Hofstra Pride Invitational, where it took down La Salle (4-3) in double overtime but then fell 1-0 to Rhode Island (4-1) in the championship match. Whether the long gap will help or hinder its play is difficult to say — and the Pride’s play itself is another unknown for the Elis, who haven’t faced Hofstra in years, head coach Pam Stuper said.

“I can’t remember when our last game against Hofstra took place,” she said. “It’s been a while, so we don’t have any recent history with them. But I’m not worried either way. They did what they needed to do, and only today will tell [if the layoff will help or hurt them].”

The Bulldogs have struggled so far this season with their offense. In three games, they have managed just 18 shots and scored just once. But a five-day break was spent working hard on generating attack opportunities, Stuper said, and she thinks they are ready to put that practice to the test in the match to come.

“We’ve been working a lot on the attacking end of play in practice,” forward Ashley McCauley ’10 said. “So hopefully, we can take advantage of our team’s speed and really get their defense running.”

Meanwhile, the Elis’ defense continues to be one of the team’s major strengths, particularly that of goalkeeper Charlotte Goins ’10. After her first three games as the Bulldogs’ starting goalie, she is ranked second in the nation for saves per game, at 12.33, and fourth for save percentage, at 88.1 percent. The team as a whole stands at third for saves and fourth for save percentage.

Sunday’s game in particular will test the Elis’ sturdy defense — Michigan State is ranked first in the nation for goals per game, at 6.0, and has the highest scoring margin in the country, at 5.13 points. But regardless of the rankings, the Bulldogs will be ready for whatever the Spartans have to offer, forward Alyssa Jethani ’09 said.

“I am nothing but excited to show them what Yale field hockey is all about,” she said. “Last year we didn’t show them what we were about, but this year I know will be different. We’re about rising to these challenges.”

Though the Elis are coming off a tough 2-0 loss to defending Ivy champion Princeton (1-2, 1-0), their previous game, against No. 3 UConn (6-0), was one of their strongest performances since Stuper began coaching, she said.

This weekend, against both ranked and unranked rivals, they will seek to recapture that intensity, McCauley said.

“We’re definitely looking to win both games this weekend,” she said. “To do that, we need to put the Princeton game behind us and play the way we did in our game against UConn.”

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