At the halfway point of Ivy League play in a densely scheduled season, the Yale field hockey team is still hungry for its first conference win. This weekend the Bulldogs have just one match on the agenda and one goal in mind: victory.
The Elis (6–5, 0–3 Ivy) dropped each of their first three conference games by one goal to Cornell, No. 13 Harvard and No. 14 Princeton, respectively. Despite stellar nonconference performance, demonstrated by decisive second-game wins over the past three weekends, Yale will seek its first Ivy victory on Saturday when it hosts Dartmouth (4–6, 1–2): the team’s first one-game weekend in over a month.
In last year’s meeting with the Big Green in Hanover, Yale put up its best offensive output in five years, scoring seven goals en route to a 7–4 victory and its first Ivy win of that season. The Elis will look to replicate similar success at home this time around.
“Everyone is really excited to have a one game weekend, especially for an Ivy match,” forward Carol Middough ’18 said. “It will raise our team’s level of intensity tremendously, especially knowing that this could be our first Ivy win.”
Against Ivy leaders Harvard and Princeton, Yale mounted early leads and defended them rigorously, until late offensive barrages from the nationally ranked Crimson and Tiger squads doomed the Elis in the twilight of the matches.
Last Saturday, the Bulldogs had an unusually poor day, and were unable to convert early scoring opportunities. A strong Big Red defense frustrated the Elis, keeping Yale off the scoreboard at Johnson Field until the final five minutes of the match, by which point Cornell had amassed a three-goal lead.
With five minutes to go and facing a significant deficit, the Bulldogs rallied off a penalty corner with a blocked shot attempt from Middough, the team’s top scorer, before midfielder Imogen Davies ’21 found the back of the net to put her team on the scoreboard and bite into Cornell’s lead.
Although the game clock was winding down, it still seemed possible that Yale might mount a last-minute comeback against the Big Red, just as the Crimson and Tigers had done against the Bulldogs in the weekends before.
That possibility dwindled as Cornell gained possession and more opportunities to score. Following Yale’s first goal, the Big Red responded with an attempt in which Yale’s rookie goalie Sydney Terroso ’21 came out of the net to play one-on-one but was circumvented by the Cornell attack. With the Big Red facing an open net, the score nearly became 4–1 until a diving defensive save by back Jackie Kisa ’19 kept the scoreline at 3–1.
As time expired, the Bulldogs gained one last penalty corner. With the knowledge that the play would not change the outcome of the match, Yale still managed to narrow the gap by one more goal, as Kisa drilled the ball into the net to conclude a bittersweet game for the Elis.
Although their losses against Ivy opponents have frustrated the team, the Bulldogs have remained above .500 for the season with success in nonconference matches. This weekend is an opportunity for the Bulldogs to capitalize on playing just one game against a Ivy team weakers than those that have defeated Yale in recent weeks.
“We have not taken any teams lightly this year,” head coach Pam Stuper said. “We respect our opponents and have played well.”
Taking the Big Green seriously will prove crucial, as Dartmouth enters the match with one Ivy victory on the season, a double-overtime win against Brown. The Big Green and the Bears played a close game all the way through, matching each other in shots, penalty corners and saves in the first half. In the second half, the game was similarly close, with Brown narrowly outshooting the Big Green. The game extended into two overtimes and concluded with Dartmouth winning by shootout.
Although the Big Green’s successful battle against Brown demonstrates the squad’s grit and ability to hold on, they have also lost heavily to stronger opponents.
Dartmouth’s three goals against Brown are the only ones it has scored in Ivy play this season — the Big Green’s offense was shut out by both Princeton and Penn, 5–0 and 3–0, respectively. The offensive potential of the Big Green is relatively spread out: 11 different players have scored for Dartmouth across 10 matches, with its top scorer Katie Spanos scoring five goals from seventeen shots.
Similarly, Yale’s offensive effort has seen 11 different players score, led by Middough, who has averaged one goal and just under six attempts per game in the team’s 11 matches thus far.
“Our primary focus for Dartmouth is to continue to grow our own strengths and our game, like quick passing and supporting each other on attack and defense,” Middough said.
In last year’s match between Dartmouth and Yale, both entered with three Ivy losses and no wins. Yale’s victory in Hanover came from a balanced, deep performance, with seven goals from six scorers, including a pair from midfielder Katie Smith ’18. The 7–4 win marked the team’s best offensive performance since the Bulldogs won a part of the Ivy League title in 2011 with a 7–0 victory over Brown. Yale’s priority in the Dartmouth game will be similar to last year’s: generating and converting scoring opportunities, and drawing on the depth of its roster.
Yale hosts Dartmouth on Saturday at 12 p.m.
Angela Xiao | firstname.lastname@example.org