The Yale field hockey team has grown accustomed to late-game heartache recently. Last year, the Bulldogs lost six one-goal games, with two of those defeats coming in overtime. But in its season opener against Michigan State, Yale triumphed in overtime to turn over a new leaf this year.
The Elis (1–0, 0–0 Ivy) fought for the early lead against the Spartans (2–3, 0–0 Big Ten), and, despite a dip in second-half intensity, went on to notch an overtime victory against a squad that, last season, trampled Yale, 4–0. Monday’s 2–1 overtime victory, though narrow, defied several of the recurring frustrations last year’s Elis faced.
“What happened today is the exact situation that we train so hard for all through the spring and summer,” forward Olivia Levieux ’21 said. “When it came down to overtime and we were exhausted and half dying from heat stroke, we could all go into our heads and think, ‘I’ve been through this, I’ve been through worse than this, I can do this.’”
The Spartans arrived in New Haven coming off a 2–0 victory against Yale’s crosstown rival, Quinnipiac. Michigan State took the first shot just four minutes into the match and forced goalie Sydney Terroso ’21, who earned first-team All-Ivy honors in her rookie season, to make her first save of the year. But the offensive dominance displayed by last year’s Spartans, who took 12 shots to the Elis’ four in the opening period of last year’s meeting, was stifled early by this year’s squad.
The hot and sunny day on Johnson Field forced both head coach Pam Stuper and her MSU counterpart to rely on frequent substitutions, but the Bulldogs’ effort remained cohesive. Although the Eli offense generated consistent opportunities to score, attempting three shots and a penalty corner before the Spartans managed their second attempt on goal, the scoreboard remained at zero for most of the first half. Terroso, who was often forced to make saves numbering in the high teens last year, delivered a pristine but relatively unchallenging two-for-two record on saves in the first frame, as the experienced Eli defense held Michigan State to just three shots for the period.
“The difference between our last game last year and where we are this year is the entire team is playing defense,” Stuper said. “The forwards are helping … same with the midfield and the backfield. That’s really helping the backs out, that they’re not having to manage a lot of high-number situations or fast breaks. We had to do [that] a lot last year.”
But the Spartans’ goalie, Jade Arundell, kept her team in the game. In the first 30 minutes of the match, Yale managed five on-target shots, and Arundell produced a save for each, keeping the score firmly knotted at 0–0 despite her team’s lackluster offensive performance.
Yale’s breakthrough came with just five minutes remaining in the first half. With the exception of a saved shot from the stick of midfielder Theodora Dillman ’22, the Bulldogs’ attempts to crack Arundell all came from returning players. But ultimately, it was a rookie who put the Bulldogs on the scoreboard, as midfielder Alissa Wong ’22, a native of West Vancouver, British Columbia, knocked one past Arundell unassisted to hand Yale its first goal of the season and put the Bulldogs ahead 1–0 going into halftime.
“We knew the skill that [Dillman and Wong] were coming in with,” Stuper said. “They proved themselves throughout preseason, that they deserved a start and that they are strong enough. I never look at years, it’s all about what’s best.”
The Spartans, who pulled off a 3–0 second-half performance against the Bulldogs last September, came back from the half roaring. They earned the period’s first penalty corner, forcing a Terroso save to briefly preserve Yale’s lead, before a second corner immediately thereafter tied the scoreboard at 1–1 — just five minutes into the period.
The second half saw a reversal in offensive possession — while the Bulldogs outshot Michigan State 9–3 in the first half, the Spartans produced 11 attempts on the net in the second half and limited the Bulldogs to two shots. Terroso remained up for the challenge, fending off two bursts of Spartan shots, with the help of a defensive save from midfielder Holly Jackson ’20 in the 60th minute to preserve the tie and force the match into overtime. Terroso tallied six saves in the second period to emerge from the game with eight saves on nine shots.
For the Bulldogs of last year, overtime play often meant heartbreak. Against then-No.16 Harvard, Terroso put together a 17-save performance that, coupled with a first-period goal, seemed almost enough to pull off an upset victory to open conference play. But the Crimson bounced back. Later in the season, against Columbia, the Bulldogs tied the game at four, before a penalty corner at the end of the overtime period sealed the win to the Lions.
On Monday, at the end of the 70 minutes of regulation play, this year’s Bulldogs stood toe-to-toe with a team that had thrashed them last year. Despite late-game momentum siding with the Spartans, however, Yale shrugged off the setback and recovered from the tough second frame to dominate the overtime period.
Midfielder Bridget Condie ’20, a second-team All-Ivy pick last season, took the period’s first shot, two minutes in, but it went wide. Two minutes later, while the Spartans were still struggling to gain offensive possession, the opportunity came in the form of a penalty corner. Forward Imogen Davies ’21 took the corner for Yale and Condie directed the ball towards the net. The ball hit off a Michigan State player and into the air, but forward Brooke Reese ’19, stationed at the far post, knocked the ball past an off-guard Arundell to hand the Elis their first victory.
Yale’s offensive performance — in which eight players took shots — underscored the team’s collective approach to making up the monumental contributions of Carol Middough ’18, who scored 18 times for the Bulldogs in her senior campaign.
“During the breaks in the game, we kept reminding each other that this was one of those games we’ve been training so rigorously for,” forward Anissa Abboud ’21 said. “And I think you could see it on the field today.”
Yale’s roster this year includes five first years.
Angela Xiao | firstname.lastname@example.org