After every tough season, there comes a chance for redemption. If the field hockey team’s season opener against Virginia Commonwealth University is any indication, the Elis may be rising from the ashes.

Seemingly without a thought to their 6-11 record last year, the Bulldogs (1-0) secured a 3-1 win against VCU (1-3) on Friday to bolster their spirits and bring new hope to their fans. And it was new blood that inspired that hope, with fledgling midfielder Katie Cantore ’10 scoring the goal that laid the groundwork for the Eli offense.

During Friday’s game, the Bulldogs seemed to feed off each others’ energy. Cantore scored the first Eli goal at the 18-minute mark, and less than two minutes later, forward Harriet Thayer ’08 shot a rebound past VCU goalie Laura Baker. At 50 minutes, forward Cat Lindroth ’08 scored a the third goal off Thayer’s assist to widen the margin.

Goalie Elizabeth Friedlander ’07 earned her keep with seven saves, but said she remained less than satisfied with her performance. Still, Friedlander said the team’s improvement — which she credited to hard personal work during the summer and a great bonding experience during the team’s annual retreat — left her with great faith in the Elis’ chances this year.

“I think I am a stronger player this year than I was last year, but … I have so much more confidence in myself and in my team,” Friedlander said.

Midfielder Rachel Lentz ’07 said the team’s greatest strength is its resilience. An injury to defender and team bedrock Emily Palonis ’07, which occurred in the first 12 minutes of play, might have crippled the Elis, but they did not fold.

“I think the victory was very much a team victory,” Lentz said. “We have a tremendous amount of depth on the team this year.”

Although the Elis said they remain proud of their victory against VCU, they conceded that there are more important games on their schedule. Their next game, against the University of Connecticut (3-1), could be a strong indicator of how much the Bulldogs have matured. The Elis have not beaten UConn once in the 23 games between the two teams, but they have occasionally held the No. 8 juggernaut to a one-point margin. If Yale can muster the strength to overcome its dismal record against the Huskies, the Elis’ season will look very bright indeed.

Team members said they feel they have risen to the level of teams like UConn and the traditionally strong Princeton. With a change in mindset and hard work, the Bulldogs just might have what it takes.

“This year, our team chemistry is the best that I’ve seen since I’ve been at Yale,” team captain and midfielder Heather Orrico ’07 said. “You can take one girl off the field and there is another girl coming off the bench who is just as strong.”