The field hockey team started off their season with a whimper, but Saturday afternoon against Brown they ended with a bang.
With forward Meredith Howell’s ’05 score, Yale (10-7, 3-4 Ivy) finished their season by beating Brown (7-9, 2-5) 4-3 in overtime. With the victory, the Bulldogs kept their seven-game win streak alive. During this streak, Yale has out-scored its opponents 18-8. The three goals Yale allowed this weekend are the most since a 5-0 loss to Connecticut Oct. 5.
The Bulldogs’ remarkable end-of-season surge has pushed them into a tie for fourth place with Cornell. The Elis are also in contention for postseason ECAC play. As late as Oct. 20, the Bulldogs were in last place in the Ivy League standings.
With the win and Cornell’s 3-1 loss to Dartmouth yesterday, the Bulldogs face a number of possible postseason scenarios. The Bulldogs and the Big Red are tied for fourth in the Ivy League and only the top four teams in the Ancient Eight will advance to the ECAC playoffs. But because Harvard is nationally ranked, the Cantabs might receive a bid to the NCAA tournament, which will prevent them from participating in the ECAC playoffs. As a result, Yale and Cornell might both advance to the postseason.
Alternatively, if Harvard does not receive a bid, there is still a possibility that Yale and Cornell will both advance to the postseason. Should the ECAC decide to accept only Yale or Cornell and not both teams, then they will make their decision by comparing the teams’ performances throughout the regular season. Yale has the slight edge in winning percentage with .588 to the Big Red’s .529, but Cornell defeated Yale 2-1 Sept. 28.
On Saturday at Brown’s Warner Roof, Yale was in the hole early as the Bears took a 2-0 lead with back-to-back goals from Laura Pierpont. With the clock at 26:00, Pierpont scored an unassisted tally. By allowing that goal, Yale trailed for the first time in 220 consecutive minutes. Pierpont scored again just three minutes later with help from the bears’ Lizzie Buza.
After Pierpont’s second tally, Yale head coach Ainslee Lamb called a timeout to break Brown’s momentum.
“We regrouped and regained our focus,” midfielder Sarah Driscoll ’05 said. “We walked on the field knowing what was on the line and we weren’t going to walk off without a win.”
The timeout worked. Less than two minutes after the break, midfielder Jana Halfon ’04 put Yale on the board with an unassisted goal and midfielder Stephanie Dolmat-Connell ’04 followed suit to tie the game with 13:41 remaining in the first half.
The Bears retook the lead with a goal from Buza in the opening minutes of the second half. But the Eli backfield clamped down, allowing the Yale offense the opportunity to organize an attack, and with 12:06 left in the game, Driscoll scored the tying goal and pushed the game into a 15-minute sudden-death overtime.
Howell scored the game-winner with 7:31 left in overtime with a pass from Driscoll. The assist was Driscoll’s ninth in four games. The Eli midfielder is in a three-way tie for first in total assists in the league.
“It’s not hard to get an assist when we have such competent attackers,” Driscoll said.
The goal was Howell’s second of the season.
“It was a pretty good feeling,” she said. “It was the culmination of a great team effort.”
The Eli defense, led by goalie Spike Nesburg ’03 and Hudson shone again.
“Our defense came up huge,” Driscoll said. “Especially in overtime when Spike [Nesburg] and Meredith [Hudson] stopped a number of situations.”
Nesburg added 11 more saves to her league-leading total of 114.
Regardless of postseason prospects, exceptional regular season performance from players like Nesburg have helped Yale accomplish the impossible by finishing three games above .500 after starting 2-6.
“The pieces were all there in the beginning — the individual skill, the heart, but we just weren’t putting it all together” Driscoll said. “Once we got a taste of winning, we made the commitment to ensure we did everything possible to win.”