The field hockey squad was reminded of a harsh reality yesterday: Even a strong performance doesn’t guarantee a victory.

After heavy rains led to the cancellation of last Friday’s match against Columbia (10-6, 4-2 Ivy), the Bulldogs (7-9, 2-4) trekked down to New York once again on Tuesday to face the Lions. But the match ended in a dispiriting 3-1 loss, leaving the Elis stuck in sixth place in the Ancient Eight. With just one match to play, a faceoff against Ivy foe Brown (0-16, 0-6), even a win this weekend cannot propel the Bulldogs any higher in conference standings.

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The Elis headed out to the Columbia Field Hockey Venue yesterday for what was only their second midweek game all season. They have not played a non-weekend game since the beginning of September. But even if the schedule was not typical, it did not faze the team at all, captain Harriet Thayer ’08 said.

“Most of the team was really excited about it, actually,” she said. “It was a perfect day to be playing, and we’d really much rather be playing in a game than practicing.”

Although the Elis came out strong against the Lions, Columbia was the first to make it onto the scoreboard, after just over 10 minutes of play. At 10:28, Lion forward Liz Reeve snapped a pass off the corner to midfielder Julia Garrison, who put it into the left side of the net to give Columbia a 1-0 lead.

The Elis fought back, and at 18:34 they answered with a penalty-stroke goal of their own. Forward Ashley McCauley ’10 snagged her 15th goal of the season, slipping the ball past Columbia goalie Gena Miller. It was the only goal that Miller — who is first in the nation for save percentage (83.3 percent) — would allow the entire game.

“We came out strong, but they kind of shot us down on attack and we had trouble adjusting to that,” back Lorrie Kiger ’08 said. “We weren’t taking what they were giving us. They were able to capitalize on the couple of opportunities they had, and we weren’t. It was frustrating.”

Just four minutes after McCauley knotted the score at one, the Lions took back their lead when Columbia midfielder Christine Buszczak beat out Yale netminder Charlotte Goins ’10. Her unassisted goal off a rebound in front of the net left the Elis trailing 2-1 as the whistle blew to end the first.

The second half saw the Bulldogs trying in vain to catch up to the Lions. But despite outshooting their opponents nine to five and holding an eight to three edge in penalty corners, the Elis could not pull it out — it was Columbia who would score one final time. With less than six minutes to play, Lion back Jacqui Munro scored off a penalty corner, giving Columbia the 3-1 victory.

“Columbia was the better team yesterday,” Yale head coach Pam Stuper said. “They proved it by capitalizing on their opportunities. We did limit their opportunities below the 25 more than we had in the last three games. We gave up ten shots, five on goal, and in games before we had been giving up twenty-some shots. But the shots they had, they scored on, so it still wasn’t good enough.”

Miller proved herself worthy of her number-one ranking, coming out of the match with 10 saves. And although Columbia took only five shots on goal all game, the Lions converted on three of them — too many for the Bulldogs to overcome, despite the 16 shots they took throughout the game.

Still, it was a solid effort, and a slight increase in offensive efficiency might have made the difference, Thayer said.

“I would definitely say we were the better team overall,” she said. “If we could have finished our play and taken care of corner and shot opportunities, we would have come out with a win. I’m definitely disappointed with the loss, but I’m proud of the way the team came out to play yesterday.”