After a dispiriting start to the weekend, the field hockey team demolished its opponents Sunday in an incredible display of offensive teamwork and skill that head coach Pam Stuper said was “a long time coming.”

Following Friday’s disheartening 1-0 loss against conference rival Cornell (5-2, 2-1 Ivy), the Bulldogs (2-5, 0-2) seized control of yesterday’s match against Fairfield (1-8), blasting through the Stags’ defenses in a resounding 7-0 victory. The win was the Elis’ first shutout this season and marked the highest number of goals they have scored in a game in more than four years.

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The Bulldogs faced the Big Red in what was only their second league game of the season, and for nearly 40 minutes, the two Ivies matched each other almost move-for-move. The end of the first half saw both teams scoreless, Cornell with six shot opportunities and the Bulldogs with five. Both squads had two unsuccessful penalty corners to their credit.

But the stalemate was broken by Cornell attacker Brenna Gulotta, who finally managed to snap one in unassisted past goaltender Charlotte Goins ’10 at 39:30. It was the last time either team would score, and the whistle blew 30 scoreless minutes later, handing the Elis a disappointing loss.

“It was a very evenly played game,” Stuper said. “Overall, defensively we played them like we needed to. But Cornell made the most shots and we didn’t, simple as that. It was very disappointing in a league game.”

Entering the game against Fairfield, the Bulldogs took command early on, getting off a few shots and keeping the ball mainly at the visitors’ end of the field. But at 21:23, forward Ashley McCauley ’10 snapped one past the Stags’ goaltender off an assist by captain Harriet Thayer ’08 — a goal that cracked the game wide open for the Elis, who seized control and refused to relinquish it for the rest of the match.

Less than four minutes after McCauley’s shot, forward Alyssa Jethani ’09 scored her first goal of the season at 25:11. The Elis snatched control right back from the Stags almost immediately and once again began to pepper Fairfield goalie Elizabeth Thomas with shots, a pattern that would be repeated throughout the game. By the time the first half ended, the Elis had pulled away to a 4-0 lead — and the Stags had not had the chance to take a single shot.

“Nothing changed strategy-wise from Friday’s game,” McCauley said. “But the team really wasn’t happy with the result of the Cornell game and came out determined to dominate.”

That domination continued all through the second half. Barely two minutes after the period began, forward Cat Lindroth ’08 fired one in from the right side off an assist from McCauley, increasing the Bulldogs’ lead to five. Three minutes later, at 40:29, forward Jayna Whitcher ’09 knocked in her first goal of the season unassisted after a save from the goalie sent the ball flying high. McCauley would score once more at 55:06 on an assist from Marissa Waldemore ’11 — her third goal for the game. And although the Stags managed five shots in the second, they could not outmaneuver Goins, who held them scoreless to end with her first shutout for the year.

“We had good passing combos, we took one-on-ones as we had them, and when we were in that circle, we were going — there was no stopping them,” Stuper said. “And that’s a different mentality than we had in the past.”

And in spite of the Friday loss, the weekend as a whole was a valuable experience both in assessing where the team is and where it’s headed next, Thayer said.

“We definitely learned something from the weekend,” she said. “Cornell was a disappointment, but [yesterday] we turned it around. And if we bring this same sort of energy to our games from now on, I’m so confident in where we’re going.”