The still-undefeated Yale field hockey team has gotten off to its best start since 2010 by successfully nabbing a trio of games at Johnson Field to open the year. This weekend, the Bulldogs will look to extend their hot streak as they travel to California to face a pair of West Coast teams in the final week before conference play begins.
The Elis (3–0, 0–0 Ivy) opened the season by avenging last year’s 4–0 defeat at the hands of Michigan State with an overtime triumph. The next weekend, they added another pair of wins. Both against familiar Hofstra and new opponent Drexel, Yale relied on solid defense and drew on a slew of players to score.
“Everyone really brought it [last weekend], and it was just amazing to play next to teammates whose energy and desire to get the win was palpable,” said midfielder Olivia Levieux ’21. “That’s how we guard against complacency, by just making sure that we always bring it, no matter the team.”
On their first away weekend of the season, the Bulldogs will face strong competitors in No. 19 Stanford Friday evening and the University of California, Berkeley, on Sunday, before opening league play against No. 16 Harvard next week.
The Elis, who ended last season with a winning record for the first time since 2011 despite a number of last-minute losses in league play, set the tone for the season early. Following the graduation of offensive linchpin Carol Middough ’18, who scored 18 goals in her senior year, the Bulldogs have spread the responsibility of scoring up and down the roster. Across the team’s first three matches, six players have scored a total of nine goals.
In their own backfield, the Elis have benefited from experience and followed the lead of goalie Sydney Terroso ’21, who earned All-Ivy second team honors in her rookie season and was named last week’s Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week. The squad’s new all-hands-on-deck defense has proved effective: The Elis have faced just 19 shots on goal in their opening matches while registering 30 on-target attempts themselves.
On Friday, the Elis will square off against the first of several ranked opponents they face this season. The Cardinal, which Yale last played in 2016, will enter the match with three games against ranked opponents under its belt. Stanford opened its season with a shutout loss at the hands of then–No. 1 Connecticut 3–0. The Cardinal next played competitive games against then–No. 12 Northwestern and then–No. 11 Syracuse but came away from both with losses. Both games required overtime to settle, and Northwestern’s victory came in double overtime.
After its front-loaded opening, Stanford enters Friday’s match riding a dominant three-win streak of its own. The Cardinal crushed its last three opponents by a combined margin of 20–2. When Yale and Stanford last met, in New Haven in 2016, a first-period goal by forward Bridget Condie ’20 put Yale up 1–0 and poised the team for an upset of then–No. 14 Stanford. But the Cardinal rallied to knot the game at one by halftime and then scored two more unanswered goals in the second half to win.
Condie, a second-team All Ivy pick last season, has since emerged as one of the Elis’ most dependable offensive producers — she has earned at least one point in each of Yale’s matches this season and is one of the team’s corner strikers in a unit that has proved indispensable to the Bulldogs’ success. Against the Cardinal, Condie and the rest of the squad will need to continue to draw penalty corners at high rates, their most time-tested method of finding the back of the net.
Rounding out their weekend on the West Coast, Yale will face Berkeley on Sunday. The match will be the pairing’s first since 2014, when the Golden Bears won 3–1. Throughout the game, the Elis conceded several penalty corners, which proved too hard to overcome.
Heading into this year’s matchup, it is the Bulldogs who have had success on penalty corners so far in 2018. They’ve scored on at least one in each of their last two games. Head coach Pam Stuper said the team’s success on penalty corners this year is due to several talented strikers, who will change the play Stuper called if they see a vulnerability in the defense.
“What you guys are seeing are some beautiful corner plays,” Stuper said. “I may call something in [but] one of [our] hitters sees something that’s open and is sending the ball even a different way than what I called.”
The Golden Bears jumped into their season with a big 5–1 victory over Providence, but have since fallen into a losing streak. Aside from a narrow 1–0 victory over Miami University in Ohio, Berkeley has suffered losses to No. 7 Maryland, No. 3 North Carolina and No. 12 Louisville. Scores of 5–0, 6–0 and 2–1, respectively, put them at a combined margin of 7–14 so far this season. The break in Berkeley’s momentum may be advantageous for the Elis, who are walking onto the field with three back-to-back wins under their belt.
According to the players, the entire team can feel the new energy to start the season. Captain and back Jackie Kisa ’19 credited the team’s first years for the change in tone.
“I can’t say enough about these first years,” Kisa said. “All five of them came into the team ready to work and ready to play at a level that has forced even the returners to step up.”
The Bulldogs will play Stanford on Friday at 10 p.m. and Berkeley on Sunday at 3 p.m.
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