The Yale field hockey team opens its season this weekend as a very different squad than when it last played on Johnson Field.
A young roster and key returning players will try to revitalize the program after a disappointing 3–14 season last fall. The Bulldogs will have their first chance to bounce back from the 2014 season with a pair of games against local rivals Sacred Heart and Quinnipiac on Saturday and Sunday.
“I think we have been working really hard in preseason and are excited for what we can do this year,” back Kiwi Comizio ’18 said. “Obviously after our season last year we would love to come out of this weekend with two wins to have a good start to the season.”
The 19-player roster is led by head coach Pam Stuper, who returns for her 11th season with the Elis, and Noelle Villa ’16, who serves as captain and back. While the only other senior on the team is the two-time All-Ivy second team midfielder Nicole Wells ’16, a staff reporter for the News, there are a total of six returning players who played at least 11 games last season. Yale will retain two of the team’s top four scorers in Wells and forward and midfielder Carol Middough ’18, who scored a combined seven of the team’s 21 goals last season.
New additions to the team include seven freshmen, the biggest class on the team and the biggest incoming class in the last 12 years. The three Toffoloni sisters — Evagelia, Katerina and Nikoletta, all class of 2019 — have made three appearances at the USA Field Hockey’s National Festival and will be supporting the Bulldogs in a variety of positions.
“My goal for this season is to be the best player I can be individually and for the team,” forward Evagelia Toffoloni ’19 said. “I want to leave everything on the field for each game. I’ve been working a lot on my positioning on the field and making the transition from high school to [Division I] athletics.”
With the graduation of goalkeeper Heather Schlesier ’15, Yale will be putting a fresh face in the net. Either Emilie Katz ’17 or Chaney Kalinich ’19 will suit up for the Elis. Yale will also be seeing a lot of new players in the forward position. Alyssa Weiss ’17 is the only upperclassman, but sophomores Catherine Kurtin ’18 and Middough will bring more experience amongst several freshman forwards.
According to Comizio, the ratio of underclassmen to upperclassmen is not something the team is worried about.
“I think it has created a great team chemistry in which we are all close and supportive,” Comizio said.
The 17-game season kicks off at Johnson Field when the Elis take on Sacred Heart on Saturday. The Pioneers opened their own season on Aug. 28 with an overtime win against Villanova, but they ended up splitting the weekend after being defeated by Vermont.
The opening weekend continues with a visit to Quinnipiac, which has already been outscored 6–1 in its first two games of the season, both losses. The Bobcats will take on No. 1 UConn on Friday before facing the Bulldogs.
“The team is focused, and we’re giving everything we have on and off the field,” back Emmy Reinwald ’17 said. “Sacred Heart and Qpac always give us good competition so they’ll both be a real test this weekend. We’re excited to finally play games and to start the season off against local opponents.”
Yale does not begin Ivy League play until Sept. 26 when the Elis will face Harvard on their alumnae day. Last season, the Bulldogs won fewer than three Ivy League games for the first time since 2008.
Saturday’s game will begin at 12 p.m. at Johnson Field.