After a decisive Ivy League win last weekend, the Yale field hockey team (4-5, 2-1 Ivy League) will head to the Midwest this weekend to face two Big Ten juggernauts: No. 18 University of Michigan (8–3, 1–1 Big Ten), and No. 17 Northwestern (10–4, 1–2 Big Ten).
This Saturday will be the first ever meeting between Yale and Michigan. The Maize and Blue currently lead the Big Ten in goals against average (1.27) and goals allowed (14). It boasts top-notch players, including goalie Christi Barwick — who leads the Big Ten and ranks eighth in the country with 1.02 goals against average. In the last seven games, Michigan has outscored opponents 22–2 en route to a 6–1 record, including four shutouts.
The Sunday matchup against Northwestern will prove even tougher for the Bulldogs. Leading the Big Ten with 42 goals off of 36 assists along with a conference-high 212 shots taken, the Northwestern offensive powerhouse will surely test the Bulldogs’ defense. The Wildcats boast 2010 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and 12-time Big Ten Player of the Week forward/midfielder Chelsea Armstrong, who holds records in both career points (161) and career goals (66).
The Bulldogs have yet to win against the Wildcats, who won the two games they played against Yale in 2005 and 2009. In 2009, Yale fell just short of an overtime victory, 3–2.
Still, the Bulldogs have a solid chance of winning both games. Yale currently stands 23rd in the nation in goals per game, and the team has gained momentum as it capitalized on its offensive and defensive strengths this season.
“Obviously, we are playing strong teams,” goalie Ona McConnell ’13 said. “But we’re strong as well.”
Yale’s offensive firepower — led by captain Erin Carter ’12 and forward Mia Rosati ’12 — currently leads the conference in scoring and ranks sixth in the country. Goalie Emily Cain ’14 nationally ranks in the top 15 in both save percentage (.776) and saves per game (7.43), allowing only three goals in her last three games.
Although the Bulldogs lost five games this season, four have been by only a single goal, and they will enter Saturday knowing that they can play with any team in the nation when they are at their best. Last weekend, the Bulldogs broke down Cornell in a 7–2 victory and evenly matched No. 2 UConn in a close game, but were ultimately unable to get past Goalkeeper of the Year Sarah Mansfield’s tight guard.
“We proved that we can play,” midfielder Dinah Landshut ’12 said. “We are just aiming to have this show in the results.”
McConnell said Yale felt calm and confident about the weekend after having good practices all week long.
The Bulldogs will face Michigan at noon Saturday and Northwestern at noon Sunday at Northwestern in Evanston, Ill.