The Yale field hockey team’s season opened in dramatic fashion when forward Carol Middough ’18 rifled home a game-winning goal in overtime to defeat Sacred Heart 2–1, lifting the Elis to an unblemished 1–0 mark.
But fast forward a little over a month and the Elis (2–7, 0–2 Ivy) are sputtering in search of such an outcome. In the midst of a five-game losing streak, head coach Pamela Stuper’s team has two more opportunities this upcoming weekend to re-enter the win column, hosting Cornell (5–4, 1–1) on Saturday and No. 6 Albany (9–1, 2–0 America East) on Sunday.
“I’m excited for this weekend and I think that we are very prepared for these games,” said midfielder/forward Katie Smith ’18. “If we stick to the game plan, I think that we will get the results we want.”
After posting a 2–2 record and scoring six goals in their first four games of the 2015 campaign, the Bulldogs have scored just two goals in the five games since. Defensively, Yale has also seen some worrisome splits this season.
After allowing just 1.5 goals per game over the first four games of the season, the Elis have conceded 4.6 goals per game during their five-game skid.
This drop-off in offensive and defensive production could be attributed to an especially difficult portion of the team’s schedule. Yale has played three nationally ranked opponents during its current losing streak. Syracuse, the then-No. 2 ranked team in the country, handed Yale its first of five losses on Sept. 20 in a 5–0 affair. Two weeks later, the Bulldogs traveled to Princeton to battle the then-No.20 ranked Tigers. Yale fell 4–0 in the Garden State and returned to New Haven only to match up with the two-time defending national champions Connecticut.
At that time, UConn was the No. 1 team in the nation. The Huskies demonstrated their might with a 8–0 dismantling of the Bulldogs.
Having already battled opponents with a 0.600 winning percentage, the Bulldogs welcome another nationally ranked opponent in Albany on Sunday — but not before they attempt to earn their first Ivy win of the season.
Cornell visits on Saturday at noon for the second contest of a four-game home stand for the Elis. The Big Red could very well have been undefeated in the Ivy League at this point. They suffered a 3–2 overtime defeat at Penn on Sept. 25 and then stifled Columbia in a 5–2 win this past Saturday.
Cornell’s most recent outing, however, was one to forget: Syracuse drubbed the Big Red 9–1 on Sunday.
“I think the game against Cornell this weekend is really important for our Ivy record and for us as a team moving forward,” defender Kiwi Comizio ’18 said.
Comizio, like several other underclassmen on Yale’s roster, has developed into a leader this season, partly due to a scarcity of upperclassmen, her teammates said. Back Noelle Villa ’16, who has been in and out of the lineup due to injury, and midfielder Nicole Wells ’16 are Yale’s only two seniors.
The Big Red enter play ranked fourth in the conference in both goals for and goals against, while the Elis have the lowest scoring offense and conceded the sixth most goals per game.
Despite the struggles on both sides of the ball, goalkeeper Emilie Katz ’17 continues to impress in net for Yale, having saved the second-most shots in the nation at 11.22 per contest.
On Sunday, Katz and the Bulldogs will have their hands full as they host the third-highest ranked team they have faced all season in No. 6 Albany. The Great Danes’ potent offense is orchestrated by junior Paula Heuser, the current NCAA Divison I active career leader in points and goals. The prolific German midfielder has registered 12 goals and has dished out five assists so far this year.
Albany’s signature win came on Sept. 11 when the Danes went into College Park, Maryland and defeated then-No. 2 Maryland in a tight 2–1 duel.
Comizio emphasized that a solid practice week is crucial for the team members if they wish to rebound after their rocky start.
“If we focus and work hard this week, as well as during the game, I think we can be successful this weekend,” Comizio said.
Should the Bulldogs secure a victory in either contest, they will exit with either their first Ancient Eight win of the season or a monumental upset that would rock the field hockey world.
As Stuper has said for the past couple of weeks, the Bulldogs must continue to trust the process. Players like Smith are confident that positive results are on the way.
“We have the skill and the formula to win,” Smith said. “We just have to stay focused on our goals and we will achieve them.”
In addition to being among the country’s leaders in saves per game, Katz is eighth in save percentage in the country at 0.783.