Yale Athletics

The Yale field hockey team got off to a hot start with an overtime win over Big Ten foe Michigan State to open the season over Labor Day weekend. This weekend, the Bulldogs will test their mettle again in their first doubleheader weekend, hosting Hofstra and Drexel in the Elis’ final home matches before the start of conference play.

The Bulldogs (1–0, 0–0 Ivy) delivered a gritty and promising performance against Michigan State that showcased the progress the team has made since the end of an often-frustrating 2017. They will look to continue that momentum and dispel still-lingering questions this weekend against a pair of strong but manageable opponents. The Elis will host a Friday matinee against Hofstra (1–3, 0–0 Colonial), before facing Drexel (3–1, 0–0 Colonial), a new addition to the schedule this year, on Sunday.

“[This weekend is about] going out and playing how we’re capable of playing, focusing on our process [and] our play, bringing our strengths into the game and playing off of that,” head coach Pam Stuper said.

After a season that saw Yale finish with a winning record for the first time in 11 years, the Elis opened this year’s play with a bang on Monday with a 2–1 overtime win in the heart of the midday heat. The Bulldogs held Michigan State, which trounced Yale 4–0 in the two squads’ meeting last fall, to a scoreless first half and pulled ahead on a goal by rookie midfielder Alissa Wong ’22 late in the period to grab the early lead. In the second half, the Spartan offense heated up and the visitors slipped their lone goal of the game past goalie Sydney Terroso ’21 to push the 1–1 match into overtime.

While both overtime play and late-game momentum changes spelled trouble for the 2017 Elis, this year’s team shook off the setback and maintained offensive control throughout overtime; late in the then-scoreless extra period, forward Brooke Reese ’19 scored the game-winner off a penalty-corner bounce to hand Yale its first victory and a taste of what the remainder of the season might hold.

The match gave viewers a preliminary answer to the question that will inevitably shape the arc of this season — how to replace the scoring of Carol Middough ’18, who led the team with 18 goals last year and now plays professionally in England. Eight players took shots for the Elis, suggesting that Yale’s strategy will look to spread across the roster the responsibility that Middough took on last season.

“Our offensive strategy this season is all about team effort,” Reese said. “We work together to score goals by using each other’s strengths on attack and communicating constantly. Everyone’s job is important whether they’re on or off ball.”

Hofstra, Yale’s first opponent this week, will provide an early litmus test on the level of consistency with which the Bulldogs can play. Consistency between matches and against varying levels of competition was much-lacked last year. The Elis grabbed a 5–2 victory against the Pride last year after falling to cross-town rival Quinnipiac early that weekend. The split weekend foreshadowed the remainder of the up-and-down season for the Elis. The Bulldogs showed that they had the potential to match even the nation’s best teams. Games against top opponents were often excruciatingly close — coming down to minutes if not seconds in the cases of narrow, late-game losses to Harvard and Princeton — or even upset victories, with a 1–0 victory against UMass.

Against relatively weaker opponents, however, Yale struggled with keeping its own level of play high. Against Hofstra, the Elis need to battle as they did against the Spartans last week, despite the Pride’s flailing start to this season, in which the team has lost by six, eight and two goals in its last three matches.

Sunday’s match against Drexel should be more competitive. After falling to No. 7 Virginia to open the season, the Dragons have won all three of their most recent matches convincingly, beating their opponents 8–2, 4–1 and 2–0. As the second game of the weekend, Drexel will also prove more challenging in forcing the Elis to shake off last year’s inability to maintain streaks. Last season, the Elis played seven doubleheader weekends, and they emerged from all but one, in which they lost both matches, with one win and one loss. For the second game of the weekend, the Elis’ challenge will be to prove that they can keep up the energy, both physical and mental.

“We are such a strong, closely bonded team,” forward Olivia Levieux ’21 said. “We also have this incredible ability to build each other up and reinvigorate each other.”

Yale plays Hofstra on Friday at 4 p.m. and Drexel on Sunday at 1 p.m.

Angela Xiao | angela.xiao@yale.edu