Just three weeks ago, the field hockey team was in last place in the Ivy League. Now, the squad finds itself heading to the postseason.
Despite opening with a 2-6 record, the Bulldogs clinched an ECAC playoff berth Wednesday. Yale (10-7, 3-4 Ivy) closed out the year with a seven game winning streak, the longest unbeaten streak in the Ivy League this fall.
“We finally found this team cohesiveness,” midfielder Stephanie Dolmat-Connell ’04 said. “We stopped playing scared.”
At 12:30 p.m. yesterday, coach Ainslee Lamb e-mailed the team the good news. Team members spent the rest of the day celebrating.
Yale finished with its best record since 1998, when it went 15-4. That season was the last time the Bulldogs reached the postseason.
“This is just the culmination of a great season,” Dolmat-Connell said. “It would have been awful if our season ended on Saturday.”
After Princeton (11-6, 7-0) and Harvard (12-5, 6-1), the top two seeds in the Ivy League, accepted NCAA bids, Yale and Cornell (9-8, 3-4), tied for fourth in the Ancient Eight, were bumped into consideration for the ECAC Tournament. Yale’s current winning streak and slightly higher winning percentage gave it the edge over the Big Red.
“It’s awesome. I didn’t think we’d make it,” sweeper Meredith Hudson ’05 said. “We had so many odds stacked against us, but once we heard Harvard got into the NCAAs, we thought we had a shot.”
Yale was also selected to host the four-team tournament, which will be held Nov. 16-17 at Yale’s Johnson Field. The No. 4 seeded Bulldogs will face top-seeded Dartmouth (11-6, 5-2). No. 2 seeded Boston University (11-9, 2-3 America East) will play No. 3 Drexel University (10-8, 2-5 Colonial Athletic Association). The winners of the two contests will face each other for the ECAC title on Sunday.
The Yale squad must face Dartmouth, who inflicted the Elis’ only loss in their final nine games. The Big Green shut out Yale 2-0 in Hanover, N.H., on Oct. 12, outshooting the Bulldogs 23-3.
“We had a good game, despite the bad numbers,” Dolmat-Connell said. “We took a lot away from that game.”
The loss turned out to be Yale’s last of the regular season, spurring the end of season surge. Now, the Bulldogs are eager to take on their Big Green rivals once again.
“We’re really psyched to play against Dartmouth,” Hudson said. “Especially since we didn’t prove ourselves the first time.”
The implementation of a 3-3-3-1, offense-oriented formation in midseason was one reason the Bulldogs were able to turn their season around.
“Things just started to click,” Hudson said. “Our corners have been on fire.”
With the new offensive system, Yale created better opportunities in the circle and generated more corners. Players like Hudson, Spike Nesburg ’04 and Sarah Driscoll ’05 also stepped up their play.
The team unveiled its new offense Oct. 5 in a 1-0 loss to Boston University. But by the time Yale left on its West Coast swing, the team had adjusted to the new lineup. Yale beat Pacific University 3-1 Oct. 18 and upset Stanford University 2-1 Oct. 20, beginning Yale’s late season seven-game tear.
In preparation for this weekend, the Bulldogs are tapering their practices. Today, the team will hold an Aces versus Bomb Squad practice where the corner team has a shoot-out against a team led by captain Rachel “Bomb” Burnes ’03.
“Our coach realizes that it’s just mental at this point,” Dolmat-Connell said. “We just need to keep playing the way we have.”