After finishing the season with an elusive winning record last year, the Yale field hockey team enters this season with both unanswered questions and abundant opportunities to build on its recent achievements.
The Bulldogs clawed their way to a 9–8 record last year after an inconsistent season that fluctuated between high points and repeated frustration, particularly in close conference matches. Although the graduation of last year’s seniors, who helped lift the program from a 3–14 mark in their first-year campaign to a winning season, leaves some holes that need filling, the team boasts a potent offense, a time-tested defense and, perhaps most importantly, a hunger to score and win.
“The commitment from everyone on the team — from the first years to the senior class — is there,” head coach Pam Stuper said. “There are greater expectations, and it starts because of the training the players did. They’ve done a lot of hard work in the last year, they believe in the work they’ve done, and they’re ready to show the progress they’ve made and the talent they have.”
While Stuper lost just four starters to graduation, the four played significant roles on both ends of the field. The greatest uncertainty the Elis currently face is how they will collectively replace the offensive firepower provided by forward Carol Middough ’18, who topped the conference in shots, goals and points last season and led the Elis in scoring for three consecutive years. En route to unanimously earning first-team All-Ivy honors for her senior campaign, she recorded 18 of Yale’s 48 goals across 17 games.
“We’ve been preparing since the spring to fill [Middough’s] role,” forward Anissa Abboud ’21 said. “We’re stepping up our offensive game this season, and you’ll see a variety of players with new tallies to their names.”
Although the team returns just two starting forwards, Abboud and Imogen Davies ’21, its remaining offensive producers are young.
Second and third on the team in scoring were midfielder Bridget Condie ’20 and Davies, with seven and six goals, respectively. Davies, a native of Kilmacolm, Scotland, who played a combination of midfield and forward in her rookie campaign, was a pivotal part of the penalty corner unit, playing and starting in all but one of the team’s 17 matches.
“Following last year and knowing that we lost our high goal scorer, the attacking unit knew that they had work to do,” Stuper said. “Every single member of our attack line … [is] making a commitment to … scoring those goals.”
On the defensive end, the graduation of starting back Tess Thompson ’18 is less of a hit, in part due to the unexpected injuries that forced last year’s squad to prematurely adjust to the loss of experienced team members. Captain and back Kiwi Comizio ’18, a two-sport athlete in field hockey and lacrosse, tore her ACL in her junior lacrosse campaign, sidelining her last fall. Comizio’s unanticipated absence showed in the squad’s early performances last season. The defense, which gained no rookies, initially struggled with organization and cohesion, but improved steadily to strong form by the start of Ivy play.
Last year, the Elis struggled with both momentum and consistency, both within and between games. They never won more than two consecutive games and played six weekends with split results. Still, they kept up with and even defeated some of their strongest opponents, while falling to weaker teams.
They lost to then-No. 16 Harvard in overtime after an early Middough goal and Terroso’s strong showing kept the Bulldogs ahead until the 69th minute. The next week, against perennial powerhouse Princeton, Yale again proved that it could play with the best, but again fell, just three minutes short of an upset victory. The Tigers went undefeated in conference play to clinch another championship title. Yale then posted one-goal losses to Cornell, Penn and Columbia, falling to the Lions in overtime, concluding the season with a tie for sixth in conference standings.
This year’s Bulldogs will look to build on last season’s successes and overcome some of the issues that plagued last year’s squad. With a new facility to call their own and a balanced class of five newcomers — one forward, two midfielders and two backs — the Bulldogs should be on track to continue their upwards trajectory as they open their season with a slew of challenging opponents.
The Elis will get plenty of experience against strong squads, including two California teams — Stanford and Berkeley — before Ivy play begins on Sept. 21 against Harvard.
Yale will host Michigan State on Monday at 12 p.m.
Angela Xiao | email@example.com