Despite another impressive double-digit save tally by goalie Charlotte Goins ’10, a shaky defense and too few offensive opportunities kept the field hockey team from picking up an Ivy League win in their conference debut this weekend.

The Bulldogs (0-3, 0-1 Ivy) fell, 2-0, to defending Ivy champion Princeton (1-2, 1-0) on Saturday afternoon at the Class of 1952 Stadium by the shores of Lake Carnegie. The Elis entered the match with high hopes after a hard-fought game that resulted in a narrow loss to No. 3 UConn (6-0) on Wednesday. But that momentum flagged against the Tigers, a result of some of the squad’s major contributors having an off day, head coach Pam Stuper said.

“We went down there with confidence and excitement to go after the win,” she said. “And this is probably the strongest team I’ve had at Yale, but unfortunately on Saturday a couple of key fighters weren’t having a great game.”

The first half was particularly tough on the Bulldogs. Although they took the first two shots of the game, the attempts, both unsuccessful, were the last offensive maneuvers the Elis would make for a long time. The Tigers seized possession soon afterwards and would take 13 shots before the half was out.

Princeton’s impressive offensive showing was in part due to the team’s eight penalty corners, as opposed to the Bulldogs’ two. But despite the Tigers’ advantage in both shots and corners, they couldn’t beat out Goins until 27:14, when Princeton defender Holly McGarvie notched an unassisted goal from in front. The shot gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead that they held until the half ended eight minutes later. In the thick of the offensive onslaught, Goins made eight saves in the first half — a feat which helped keep the team alive. And the barrage of shots didn’t faze her, simply because it is in the job description, Goins said.

“I can’t really afford to be stressed out in goal,” she said. “If I didn’t want to be shot at, I should have been a forward. It’s my job, and I love doing it. I’m just trying to stay calm and remember everything I am supposed to focus on from game to game while hopefully steadily improving each time.”

The second half was offensively a better one for the Bulldogs, as they freed themselves from Princeton’s smothering press and took the game to the other end of the field. But the improvement still wasn’t enough, simply because there were not enough attack opportunities for the Bulldogs to score, Stuper said.

“The biggest thing in terms of attack is that we have to utilize our strengths more, which are our speed and athleticism,” she said. “If we can use those things to advantage, to move the ball around the defenders, then we’ll be successful.”

The Eli defense held the Tigers at bay for almost the entire second half, keeping them within a single goal despite Princeton’s nine additional penalty corners. But at 68:18, midfielder Paige Schmidt made a behind-the-back pass to midfielder Sarah Reinprecht, which Reinprecht tucked into the net near the post to bring the score to 2-0. The whistle blew less than two minutes later, ending the game.

Although the match was a loss, it nevertheless yielded its own small triumphs, such as the return of forward Alyssa Jethani ’09 after an injury kept her sidelined for the first two games. Stuper said Jethani helped the Bulldogs generate a few good attacking plays, as did forward Ashley McCauley ’10. And in spite of the weekend’s defeat, forward Cat Lindroth ’08 has no doubts that the team will get itself back on track.

“It was a very emotional weekend, with a lot of highs and lows,” she said. “But we are an amazing team, and after a lot of meetings and talking we know what we need to do to aim ourselves at becoming champions.”