In front of 35 years’ worth of alumni and supporters this weekend, the field hockey team will fight to maintain the success of the past few weeks against not only a perpetual archrival but also the first nationally ranked team it has faced in nearly a month.
Kicking off the anniversary weekend, the Bulldogs (6-5, 1-2 Ivy) will face off against Ancient Eight foe Harvard (7-4, 3-0) on Saturday at Johnson Field. Sunday, they will play their second-to-last home game of the season against No. 18 Syracuse (11-3) as they seek to maintain the momentum that has them blazing forward on a five-game winning streak and outscoring their last five opponents, 16-3.
“For me, and what I’ve tried to express to the players, is that this is just another game, and it’s just another weekend,” head coach Pam Stuper said. “We go out, and we control what we can control, which is our play, and we continue to do the things we’ve been doing that have made us successful.”
The Crimson stand at the top of the conference standings after defeating Penn (6-5, 2-1) and Brown (0-10, 0-3) earlier in the season. Just last weekend, Harvard snatched a victory from Cornell (6-4, 3-2) in a 3-2 overtime battle. Meanwhile, the Elis are currently slotted in fifth place, above Dartmouth (3-7, 1-3) and the luckless Bears.
But not all Ivy honor belongs to the Crimson, despite their undefeated league record. The Bulldogs have fielded the Ivy League Player of the Week for two weeks running. Goalkeeper Charlotte Goins ‘10 took the title after a 19-save weekend in which she also pulled off her third shutout of the season. Goins is also ranked second for save percentage, at 85.8 percent, and fifth for saves per game, with 9.36. Two weeks ago, forward Ashley McCauley ’10 garnered the same honor, and she is still tied for first in goals per game with 1.0 — 11 goals in 11 games.
Still, Harvard is no small threat. The Crimson are coming off a two-game winning streak, and last week they fielded two players for the Ivy Honor Roll — forward Maggie McVeigh, who scored the tying goal against the Big Red, and defender Devon Shapiro, who then scored the game-winning goal that kept Harvard undefeated and at the top of the Ivy ranks. But if the Elis play the at the top of their game, they can take down the Crimson without a doubt, forward Cat Lindroth ’08 said.
“Coming off this week’s practices, we’re absolutely energized, absolutely excited and absolutely at our best,” she said. “We’re an incredible team when we’re on, and we need to come out against Harvard like that. I absolutely expect that. I expect every person on our team will come out and play at her best.”
Sunday’s matchup against Syracuse will bring another set of challenges. The Orange are coming off a solid 4-2 victory over Villanova (10-3), and their offensive rankings could put the Bulldogs’ imposing defense to the test. Syracuse stands at ninth in goals per game, with 3.07, and at seventh both in points per game and assists, with 8.57 and 2.43, respectively.
Although both Harvard and Syracuse will be tough competitors, the Bulldogs are ready and willing to take on their opponents, and the alumni and supporters in New Haven for the anniversary celebration are just one more motivation to keep their winning streak alive, midfielder Ali Rotondo ’09 said.
“It’s great to have alumni and people who’ve been supporting the program for 35 years watching the game,” she said. “And it gives us extra incentive to win. It’ll be tough playing Harvard and Syracuse back to back, but we’re really excited and this is a sort of pivot point in the season — these are the games we have to win.”