Despite ranking third in three offensive categories, the field hockey team finished 2001 a dismal seventh in the Ivy League. Now with a year of experience under their belts, the Bulldogs enter 2002 confident that they have the talent to turn last year’s one-goal losses into victories.

After using 2000 to rebuild, the Bulldogs had seemed poised to break out but were unable to follow through on that promise. Every loss adhered to a similar pattern — a high-energy first half followed by 35 minutes or more of tapered intensity. Out of seven games that went into overtime, the Bulldogs were only able to convert one into a win. Yale finished 2002 with a record of 7-10-0, 1-6-0 Ivy.

The difference in play between periods was astounding. All season, the Eli defense allowed only eight goals in the first period, but in the second, their opponents scored three times as much.

The returning players hope to use that disappointment to fuel them toward a winning record.

“As juniors and seniors, we anchor the team with experience and a deep desire to win, which has had time to brew throughout the various seasons,” goalie Krissy Nesburg ’04 said.

Third-year coach Ainslee Lamb is stressing the importance of closing out games and keeping the offensive droughts to a minimum.

“Throughout the spring, our main focus has been playing 70-plus minutes of very consistent and dominating hockey,” captain Rachel Burnes ’03 said.

The Eli squad also used this spring to smooth out kinks in its game plan.

“I think that constant repetition in drills and exposure to different defensive scenarios help make our backfield as effective as it can be,” Nesburg said.

Nesburg, who was second in the league in saves last season and selected for the under-23 U.S. National Team, will control the defensive line this year.

Sweeper Meredith Hudson ’05, lauded by teammates for her consistency and strength, is likely to be a threatening force in the penalty corners. Rounding out the backfield is line-up mainstay Brigid Boland ’03.

“Our defensive communication has really improved,” Stephanie Dolmot-Connell ’04 said. “Meredith Hudson and [Nesburg] do an amazing job of organizing the defense and getting the ball out of our defensive circle.”

At midfield, the duo of Sarah Driscoll ’05 and Jana Halfon ’04 should provide the Bulldogs with scoring opportunities. Driscoll, a three-time Ivy League Rookie of the Week winner last year, should continue to build on her impressive rookie season, in which she notched 10 assists, good for third in the conference.

Halfon, who tied for seventh in the league with 21 points last season, is an intimidating presence in left midfield with a polished passing game. The junior forward believes set plays will be crucial to the Yale attack.

“I need to be more consistent with my drag out on our corners, thus assuring that every corner we receive is an opportunity to score,” Halfon said.

The front lines will be led by Suzanne Anthony ’03 and Dolmot-Connell, who, with their speed and quickness, should open the offensive gates for Yale.

For the season home opener this Sunday against Princeton at Johnson Field, expect to see a refined passing game and a fiercer attack line.

“In terms of areas of improvement, we still need to fine-tune the little things and really commit ourselves to giving it our all in the last minutes of the game to either secure a win or come back from behind and win,” Halfon said.

If all the pieces of the puzzle fit together, the Bulldogs know that they have the talent and drive to erase the memories of last season and compete with the best in the Ivies.

“There is an incredible desire by every single class to finish at the top of our league, unlike most teams where this urgency is only held by the graduating class,” Burnes said.