This year, with its seven top scorers and 13 letter winners back from a team that finished second in the Ivy League last year, the Yale field hockey team is looking to defy a challenging schedule and make a statement in its season opener against No. 20 Stanford on Saturday morning at Johnson Field.

The Cardinal (2–1) are just one of five teams on the Bulldogs’ schedule ranked in the NFHCA/Kookaburra Division I Preseason Poll, and five more teams on the schedule received votes for that list. The Cardinal charge into Saturday’s matchup fresh off a 3–2 victory over No. 17 Albany — a team Yale will face later this season — and with a win over Hofstra in their opener.

And while having three games — two against ranked teams — under its belt is an advantage for Stanford, the fact that Yale has not played and that the two teams have not met in past seasons means the Cardinal will not have much information on the 2011 Bulldogs. Yale head coach Pam Stuper said that may even the playing field.

“We’ve gotten as much information on them as we can, and they’ll be doing the same for us, but in a game like this it really comes down to the players on the field,” Stuper said. “They have to figure it out, try to make adjustments and use their instincts, and we have a veteran group with lots of experience on the field.”

With the exception of the goalkeeper position, where Emily Cain ’14 will take over as the full-time starter, Yale’s lineup is indeed loaded with collegiate experience. At the top is a senior class that features two players, midfielder Dinah Landshut ’12 and forward Mia Rosati ’12, who have started every game of their careers. The forward line features Erica Borgo ’14, last year’s leading scorer. Landshut, who tallied the second-most assists in school history (16) in 2010, anchors the midfield, while captain Erin Carter ’12, who tied Borgo for the most goals with eight last season , leads the backfield.

The team’s preseason culminated in two scrimmages in which, she said, her team performed at a higher level than it ever had in a preseason date in previous years. Carter agreed.

“We’ve been working tirelessly this preseason and pushing ourselves everyday,” Carter said. “We have a lot of strong players coming back for our 2011 season, with every member of the team playing a different key role. Our goals are to be Ivy Champs and to be in the NCAA tournament.”

With that goal in mind, and the Ivy League’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament gone in 2011, the Bulldogs will need to impress against a daunting schedule. For that reason, Saturday’s game, which also kicks off the second annual “Get a Grip” campaign, Yale field hockey’s season-long fund-raising program to benefit myotonic dystrophy research, is all the more important for the Bulldogs.

“If we each take the fall one game at a time, I’m confident that we can definitely achieve our goals,” Carter said. “Every girl on this team has made them her priority for 2011 and is willing to put in the heart and effort to make them happen.”

No. 20 Stanford and Yale face off at 11 a.m. Saturday at Johnson Field. T-shirts to benefit the “Get a Grip” campaign will be on sale, donations will be accepted, and the Bulldogs will be donning specially made jerseys for the event.