Heading into its game with No. 7 Princeton Wednesday night, the field hockey team looked to an unlikely source for inspiration: The Daily Princetonian.
“Though it might not be diplomatic to say so, Yale is about as threatening as a de-clawed koala bear,” wrote Nicholas Benjamin, staff writer for the The Princetonian. “For those of you not familiar with koala bears, they — are cuddly.”
This quote energized Yale (7-9, 1-5 Ivy) players as they took on by far their toughest opponent of the season. But their fervor was not enough to pull off the upset, as the Tigers clawed their way to a 3-2 victory.
“That article pissed us off,” Erin Tennyson ’02 said. “We played our hearts out. They underestimated us.”
Princeton’s (14-2, 6-0 Ivy) Ilvy Friebe opened the scoring with a goal at 26:23, assisted by freshman Natalie Martirosian, the sister of Yale defender Tovia Martirosian ’02. Six minutes later, Friebe struck again with an unassisted goal to make the score 2-0.
Following those two early goals, the Yale defense clamped down on the Tiger offense that averages nearly four goals a game, not allowing another goal until late in the second half.
“[The defense] worked as a unit,” Tennyson said. “We did an amazing job of marking inside the circle.”
The Bulldogs gained momentum heading into halftime when Jana Halfon ’04 cut the Yale deficit to one with an unassisted goal at 5:47 remaining in the first half.
The second half was a back-and-forth battle, with Princeton maintaining a one-goal lead until captain Caroline Thompson ’02 evened the score with a penalty corner goal at 11:39. The other two members of Yale’s corner trio, Halfon and Sarah Driscoll ’05 were credited with assists.
But a minute later, the younger Martirosian scored the game-winning goal for Princeton. Yale head coach Ainslee Lamb pulled goalkeeper Krissy Nesburg ’04 with a minute to play, but to no avail: Princeton squeezed by with the win.
Despite the loss, Yale players and coaches said that they were happy with their ability to play Princeton competitively. Princeton is by far the best team in the Ivy League and one of the best squads in the country. In their 16 games this season, only one opponent, No. 2 Maryland, has scored more than two goals.
“[After the game], I told [the players] that I was proud of them,” Lamb said. “They walked away from the game knowing that Princeton is beatable.”
Lamb praised Nesburg, whose eight saves helped Yale keep the Princeton offense under its average of a three-goal margin of victory.
“Krissy Nesburg’s play was unbelievable,” she said.
Although Princeton outshot the Bulldogs by the hefty margin of 25-6, Yale still managed to stay close. Lamb and Martirosian agreed that Yale’s intensity, something that many players have felt has been lacking for much of the season, was chiefly responsible for this.
“One of our goals was to outwork Princeton, and the kids did that,” Lamb said.
The Bulldogs will try to bring the same intensity as they host Brown on Saturday for the season finale. While Brown (7-8, 2-3 Ivy) is no pushover, several Elis said their performance at Princeton suggests they have the ability to win.
“We proved that we are capable of playing at a high level,” Tennyson said.