As she caught the ball from midfielder Kirsten Krebs ’12, forward Erica Borgo ’14 lifted the ball on her backhand and edged it right past Penn goalkeeper Kieran Sweeney to score the tie-breaking point.
Going into the weekend, the Yale field hockey team (8–6, 4–1) knew only a win against the Quakers (3–11, 1–4) would be good enough to maintain the team’s first place standing in the Ivy League. The team struggled at first with Franklin Field’s SprinTurf — artificial grass longer than AstroTurf and prone to more erratic bounces — midfielder Dinah Landshut ’12 said. But the players adjusted, and thanks to Sunday’s win, the Bulldogs now enjoy a four-win streak and stand in a three-way tie with Columbia and Princeton.
“The game proved that the team is well capable of coming up with a win though many things might not work in our favor,” Landshut said.
She added that the longer turf made it harder to control the ball. None of the fourteen shots during the first half produced goals.
The Elis entered Sunday with a distinct statistical advantage in shots, shots on goal and corners against the Quakers. The Bulldogs triumphed against Cornell, Dartmouth and Harvard whereas the Quakers were only able to conquer the Big Red.
At the start of this week, the Elis stood in a five-way tie for first, but two of the teams — Dartmouth and Harvard — lost games to Columbia and Princeton respectively and dropped out down the rankings to fourth.
Despite a strong statistical edge, Yale ended up winning by only a slim 2-1 margin.
“The turf definitely presented a challenge,” midfielder Mary Beth Barnham ’13 said.
The Bulldogs planned to practice on special turf all week in preparation of the match, forward Mia Rosati ’12 told the News last week.
But Barnham said the grass was even longer than expected.
Possession changed frequently throughout the first half of the game with both sides grappling for the ball. Penn forward Julie Tahan shot a goal past goalkeeper Emily Cain ’14. Yale responded, but none of the next three shots on goal could pass Quaker goalkeeper Kieran Sweeney to close down the 1–0 deficit by halftime.
In the second half, Landshut said the team adjusted better to the turf and blasted two goals past Sweeney to clench a victory.
“We turned it around in the second half through teamwork and making the small things … count,” Landshut said.
She added that the team came through by “stepping up the 50-50 balls” or winning balls between two opposing players that both could potentially reach.
During the half, the Elis maintained near-constant control but still did not score on 10 of 12 shots. Yale did not score on any its five corner shots.
At 45:09, forward Gabby Garcia ’14 broke the scoring lull when she struck a pass from back Taylor Sankovich ’12 to even the score 1–1.
The Quakers regrouped to push the ball into Yale territory, with Yale tightly defending its half of the field. As the game approached a stasis with Sweeney blocking shots from Barnham and forward Mia Rosati ’12, forward Erica Borgo ’14 came through just in time to receive a pass from midfielder Kirsten Krebs ’12 and found an open place in the net.
The game closed 14 minutes later in a 2-1 win.
But two team members interviewed said the match was a struggle.
“[The match] was definitely more the back and forth kind of game of hustle and precision,” Barnham said.
Head Coach Pam Stuper added that the game required adjustments, but the team came out and controlled the ball.
“We got a little frustrated,” Stuper commented on the missed potential goals, “but we realized what we could control and what adjustments we needed to make.”