The Yale women’s field hockey team opened the 2009 season with a bang this weekend, handing local rival Sacred Heart a convincing 7-1 defeat Friday and pushing perennial NCAA power Northwestern to the limit in a 3-2 overtime loss on Saturday.

The season got off to a rather inauspicious start when Sacred Heart capitalized on a Yale defensive breakdown just one minute into the game to take a quick 1-0 lead. But the Bulldogs quickly regrouped and rallied, rattling off seven unanswered goals on their way to an emphatic 7-1 victory.

Five different Bulldogs took part in the scoring, including those making their debut performances. Forward Maddy Sharp ’13 and midfielder Mary Beth Barham ’13 each scored in the win, and fellow rookie Lexy Adams ’13 also played significant minutes, giving the Bulldogs (1-1) a boost off the bench.

“Having three freshmen play and two of them score — it will be a really nice bonus to add them to what is already here,” head coach Pam Stuper said.

Among those already there is forward Ashley McCauley ’10, who led the way for Yale with a trio of goals against Sacred Heart (0-4). Already fifth on Yale’s all-time scoring list coming into the season, McCauley’s hot start leaves her 14 goals behind Yale’s all-time leader, and a mere four goals from second place on the list.

After such a convincing victory, Yale headed into Saturday’s game against traditional powerhouse Northwestern with momentum on its side. The Bulldog defense played well, but despite a stellar first-half performance, the Elis found themselves facing a 1-0 halftime deficit thanks to a penalty corner goal scored by the Wildcats with time expired.

Northwestern (4-1) took advantage of yet another penalty corner to take a commanding 2-0 lead early in the second half. Yet the Bulldogs refused to give up, hanging in until a penalty by Northwestern set up a penalty corner for the Yalies. The Elis cut the lead in half when midfielder Erin Carter ’12 beat Wildcat goalie Katie Lynch, who had 12 saves on the day, for her first goal of the season.

Yale’s offense relentlessly pressured the Wildcats, and with less than two minutes left to play, forward Dinah Landshut ’12 took a big shot that midfielder Marissa Waldemore ’11 deflected in for the game-tying goal.

Northwestern retaliated in overtime with a two-on-none breakaway that left Yale goalie Charlotte Goins ’10 with no chance to prevent the Wildcats from ruining the Bulldogs’ comeback and scoring the winning goal.

Goins made several game-saving stops late in the game, and the Yale defense, led by Waldemore and back Erica Cullum ’11, played tough the whole game, giving the Elis a chance to stage their comeback.

Even in the loss, the Bulldogs showed resilience and heart as they set the tone for the rest of the season.

“I think today showed what a bright future is ahead for our team this year,” back Vicki Gordon ’11 said. “We are stronger, smarter, and faster over the ball than last year — I think we can expect great things to come.”