After capturing an Ivy League title in 2011, the Yale field hockey team has failed to achieve a winning season in each of its last four attempts. The Bulldogs tied with Brown for last in the Ivy League in 2014 and 2015, winning just one game in conference and finishing 3–14 the last two years.
If the Bulldogs are to turn the tide this season, change will come from a mix of experience and youth. The 2016 Elis (2–0, 0–0 Ivy) return six players who started every game in 2015, including second team all-Ivy forward Carol Middough ’18, who led Yale in scoring last season, and goalie Emilie Katz ’17, who was the only nonsenior in the Ancient Eight to be unanimously named to the All-Ivy First Team. Meanwhile, six freshmen, including two forwards who have already contributed points in 2016 and a defender in the starting lineup, have bolstered Yale’s roster in the offseason.
“As a team, our goal this season is to win an Ivy League championship,” Middough said. “I think one of our greatest strengths this year will be our bench. In the past, we’ve struggled with our numbers and subbing. This season with 21 players, it’s going to be so important to be able to sub players in and out every few minutes once they get tired.”
A week into the season, the Bulldogs are already off to a hot start with victories over two winless opponents: 2–0 over Sacred Heart (0–4, 0–0 Northeast) in their home opener and 2–1 in overtime at Bryant (0–4, 0–0 Northeast).
The wins showed off Yale’s depth on offense, as Yale’s four goals have come from four different forwards. Other than Middough, who provided the overtime heroics against Bryant with the game-winning goal, forwards Brooke Reese ’19, Allie Carrigan ’19 and Camille Scheyer ’20 have also found the back of the net. Forward Bridget Condie ’20 assisted on Reese’s goal against Sacred Heart.
Scheyer and Condie are not the only players new to the team. Along with six freshmen, the sophomore Carrigan, who is a member of the Yale women’s lacrosse team, joined the team this offseason.
Yale scored two goals in just five of 17 games last year, but with new talent to supplement Middough, the Bulldogs have struck twice in each of its first two games.
“The difference this year with our offense is our confidence and our numbers,” Middough said. “We have several forwards who are all capable of finishing in the circle this season.”
At midfield Yale returns three starters: identical twins Katie and Lily Smith ’18 and Marissa Medici ’19, who combined for 11 points last season.
Captain Steffi Katz ’17, the goalie’s sister, has rounded out the midfield for the past two games in the former place of graduated midfielder Nicole Wells ’16, who captained the Bulldogs in 2014 and was named All-Ivy honorable mention her junior and senior years.
“Steffi’s ability to lead by example with her work ethic, focus and resilience has really made a difference at practice and on game day this year,” Medici said.
Defender Kiwi Comizio ’18 is the only returning starter to the back line. She is joined on defense by Tess Thompson ’18, who started once and appeared in every game last year, and Holly Jackson ’20. Jackson is part of the freshman class that Steffi Katz called “very talented” and said will contribute immediately to the team.
Yale will need new stalwarts on defense if it hopes to improve from last year. The 2015 Bulldogs gave up 14 shots on goal per game, nearly nine more than the Elis put on frame per contest.
The Bulldogs’ fate would have been worse last season had they not had Emilie Katz in goal. Emilie Katz was second in the NCAA with 10.71 saves per game in 2015 and fourth nationally with a 0.791 save percentage. The star netminder is off to a good start in her senior campaign, having not faced a shot against Sacred Heart and made seven saves out of eight shots on target against Bryant.
While Yale’s 2–0 start against Sacred Heart and Bryant provides hope for the season, the Bulldogs have far more challenging opponents ahead of them. Four of the teams on their schedule made the NCAA tournament in 2015 and are currently ranked in the nation’s top 20.
After hosting Hofstra and Lafayette this weekend, Yale will travel to No. 12 Albany on Sept. 17. Other notable out-of-conference games include an east coast visit from No. 14 Stanford on Sept. 25 and a trip to No. 4 Connecticut on Oct. 16. UConn reached the national semifinal last year before falling to Syracuse, the eventual national champion.
Ivy League play for Yale opens at Harvard on Sept. 23. Among the Bulldogs’ seven conference contests, the most challenging of those will take place in New Haven, when No. 16 Princeton comes to town on Oct. 1.
Yale has won just two Ivy League titles in its history. The Ivy League first introduced field hockey in 1979.