After a two-weekend absence, the field hockey team returns to Johnson Field this weekend for a pair of important contests. The Elis (5-7, 1-3 Ivy) take on a tough Ivy League foe in the University of Pennsylvania (10-4, 3-1 Ivy) Saturday before facing off against a struggling University of Vermont (2-13) Sunday.
In the wake of last Saturday’s close loss to No. 18 Harvard, an Eli run for the Ivy title is doubtful. But the Bulldogs have reevaluated their season goals and are ready to work towards another achievement — repeating as ECAC champions.
“We had a team meeting a few days ago and we reset our goals for the rest of season,” captain Chrissy Hall ’05 said. “We’re looking to win the ECACs. We’d have to win four of the next five games, which is a big goal. We have to win this weekend, but practice was good this week and we feel like we’re in position to make that happen.”
Last year, the Elis downed the Quakers twice, including Yale’s 2-1 victory Nov. 15, 2003 to secure the ECAC title. But that contest pitted an 11-6 Bulldog squad that had won five games in a row against a 10-7 Penn team that had lost three of its last four. Yale’s 2-1 regular season defeat of the Quakers Oct. 26 snapped a seven-game Penn win streak.
This year’s Quakers appear to be tougher competition. Entering this weekend, Penn has won five straight games and has posted four straight shutouts. The Quakers have outscored opponents 24-14 and held a 153-114 advantage in shooting in 2004. The Penn squad has also consistently received votes in the weekly STX/NFHCA poll since Sept. 28.
The Quakers are led by senior forward Liz Lorelli. In 2003, Lorelli was a third-team All-American and first-team All-Ivy selection. She leads Penn in both goals and points, with six and 17, respectively.
The strength of the Quakers is defense. While Penn has only averaged 1.67 goals per game, it has held opponents to less than a score per game. Sophomore goaltender Liz Schlossberg has posted a stingy 1.01 goals-against average and has six shutouts.
One of the Bulldogs’ ongoing goals this season has been to improve play within the offensive circle and to take better advantage of scoring opportunities. An aggressive offense will be more important Saturday than in any other game the Elis have played in 2004 — only one or two tallies could be enough to top the low-scoring Quaker offense.
“We’ve been having good shooting practices,” midfielder Lindsay Collins ’07 said. “They have fast defenders, but we won’t have problems getting shots off. We just need to put them in.”
Sunday’s matchup with the Vermont looks to be an easier contest for the Bulldogs. The Catamounts have not won a game since Oct. 9 and have failed to score in seven of their fifteen games this season.
Vermont has been outscored 56-13 this fall. Their opponents have more than doubled their shot total, 284-140, and Vermont has taken only 77 penalty corners to their opponents’ 141.
The Catamounts are an extremely young team. There are only five upperclassmen on the Vermont squad — two seniors and three juniors. Three of the Catamounts’ four leading point-getters are freshmen.
The most impressive member of the Vermont squad is freshman forward Danielle Collins, who was named America East Rookie of the Week Monday. Collins leads the Catamounts with five goals and 25 shots and is second on the team with two assists. She is the only Vermont player to amass a double-digit point total, with 12.
The Bulldogs know that Sunday’s game is very winnable. But they are also aware that they cannot take the contest for granted.
“We intend on going to the ECAC tournament,” forward Marly Gillece ’06 said. “In order to be considered, we must have a winning record. We can’t be complacent with any game. We need every single win.”
The Elis’ new goal will be difficult to accomplish, and Penn provides an extremely challenging first obstacle. But several Bulldogs said that practice has been good this week and that they are ready to play their best.
“We’re ready to go out there, have fun and play well,” Collins said. “Our preparation has been good. We should be ready to go out and play our game.”