Move over, Jack Kerouac. The notion of being “On the Road” more recently applies to the field hockey team and the successes and struggles of its young season.
On Saturday night, the Bulldogs (1-5, 0-1 Ivy) will play their fourth straight away game when they head to Ithaca to face a formidable Cornell (4-1, 2-0) squad. This crucial Ivy League matchup falls right in the middle of an extended road trip, one that forces Yale to play eight out of 10 games away from New Haven. Unfortunately for the Elis, they have not found their opponents’ stadiums to be welcoming.
After an opening day 3-1 win against VCU at the Bulldogs’ Johnson Field, the field hockey team has lost five straight games. Four of these were away from Yale — including matches against tough non-league opponents such as then-No. 8 UConn, Michigan State, Northwestern and Stanford — and the fifth was a difficult 2-1 home loss to defending Ivy champion Princeton.
While the Bulldogs’ overall record is less than stellar, their recently improved defensive play against Northwestern and Stanford has the team optimistic for its Ivy League faceoff against the Big Red.
“Even though we haven’t been getting the outcomes that we want, we’ve been getting better every game,” defender Emily Palilonis ’07 said. “On defense, we’ve been getting back to the basics and have developed the mentality that we are going to get the ball out. If we continue making strides in the right direction, the wins will come.”
Upon further review, the Elis’ record may be deceiving. They have loaded the start of their schedule with extremely strong opponents and aimed at preparing for their Ivy League foes. In their one Ancient Eight game against the Tigers, a squad often at the top of the league, the Elis gave the Princeton team all it could handle. Although the Tigers squeaked out a victory against a well-prepared Yale squad late in the contest, the game showed the Bulldogs’ resolve and ability to compete for an Ivy championship this year.
“Our coach purposely put us up against teams we knew were going to challenge us,” forward Cat Lindroth ’08 said. “We’ve taken the games apart by looking at film and have already fixed some of the problems that we’ve found. The lessons that we’ve learned in these early games will be crucial in Ivy League play. We definitely have something to prove.”
This determined attitude is apparent in the team’s practices and preparations. Yale head coach Pam Stuper has stressed fundamentals on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball and the Elis have worked to ensure that the improvements in practice translate into on-the-field success this Saturday.
“We’ve been working on our scoring ability and our efforts in the defensive and offensive circle,” goalkeeper Elizabeth Friedlander ’07 said. “I’m really pleased with our defensive corner unit’s effort this season. Obviously we’d like to be winning, but if we keep working hard I’m sure good things are in store for us.”
Yet to beat Cornell, the Bulldogs will have to score on the Big Red’s solid goalkeeper Lizzie Goldblatt, who has let up a paltry two goals this season. The Elis can count on Goldblatt to try to make the road-weary Bulldogs feel rattled in their first Ivy road match.