With the bulk of its nonconference schedule in the rearview mirror, the Yale field hockey team enters a riveting weekend of competition, kicking off its Ivy League campaign at Harvard on Friday before facing No. 18 Stanford just two days later.
Both the Crimson (2–4, 0–0 Ivy) and the Cardinal (2–4, 0–0 America East) have suffered four losses already this season and enter the weekend’s competition against the Bulldogs (4–2, 0–0 Ivy) in search of much-needed momentum. The Elis, buoyed by a solid 4–2 victory over Georgetown and a narrow loss to then-No. 17 Albany in their last two matches, seek to build on their season’s promising start.
“We are really excited to be entering Ivy League play … and to have the opportunity to play a top-ranked and talented [Stanford] team,” back Kiwi Comizio ’18 said. “It’s going to be a really big weekend for us, and we’re all looking forward to it.”
All eyes will be on Yale’s Ivy League opener in Cambridge. Though the Bulldogs have not beaten Harvard since 2012, a win which capped a stretch of four consecutive victories against the Crimson, the two teams meet on Friday with opposite trajectories in 2016. Yale has already overtaken its win total from last year’s 3–14 campaign, averaging 2.5 goals per game in six contests. Meanwhile the Crimson has struggled offensively as of late, shouldering a minus-seven goal differential through a three-game losing streak.
Both Yale and Harvard boast powerful strikers on its respective squads. Eli forward Carol Middough ’18 currently leads the Ivy League with five goals and 11 points, and is ranked second in the conference with 29 shots. The junior sparked Yale’s offensive blaze last weekend against the Hoyas, scoring two goals in just over two minutes of action.
“Last weekend [against Georgetown] we showed what we were capable of [by] putting up four goals in less than six minutes and working together as a unit,” forward Brooke Reese ’19 said.
Forward Bridget Condie ’20 has also made her way toward the top of the conference rankings, attempting 28 shots of her own this season. For the Crimson, forward Marissa Balleza has again settled in amongst the Ancient Eight’s top offensive threats. The senior ranks second in the Ivy League in goals, fourth in points and fifth in shots.
Balleza will go head-to-head with a fellow veteran in Yale goalie Emilie Katz ’17. Katz is currently second in the Ivy League with a 1.66 goals-against average and third in the conference with 28 saves on a 0.737 save percentage. The senior netminder notched 16 saves in last year’s double-overtime thriller against Harvard before finally ceding the deciding goal in a shootout.
Yale’s 2–1 defeat in 2015 was the most recent of several competitive matchups between the storied rivals. Three of the Bulldogs’ last four games against Harvard have been decided by just one goal.
“With our first Ivy game on Friday, Harvard is definitely our number one priority right now,” forward Cat Kurtin ’18 said. “After a really tough loss last year, we are all very fired up to have another opportunity to play our rivals. We have been channeling [our energy] into a week of highly competitive practice to prepare for what will surely be a battle.”
After the conference debut in Cambridge, the Bulldogs will come home to Johnson Field to host Stanford. The two teams have only played three times since 2008, with the Cardinal having dominated each encounter by a minimum of two goals.
Stanford has had a mixed degree of success this year, starting its season with two wins and four losses. However, all four of those losses, including a 3–1 defeat at the hands of No. 1 Syracuse, were against teams currently ranked in the NCAA top 10.
The Cardinal, currently ranked No. 18, represents the second ranked opponent on Yale’s schedule. The Bulldogs fell 2–1 earlier in the year to then-No. 17 Albany.
“We were able to prove to ourselves at Albany that we are capable of playing with the best teams in the country,” Kurtin said. “We readily accept the challenge to play Stanford, and hope to get a different outcome [than against Albany].”
The Bulldogs will start the weekend’s action at 7 p.m. against Harvard in search of its first win in a conference opener since 2012.