As the Yale field hockey team prepares to open Ivy play against Harvard this weekend, it has a chance to snap a pair of losing streaks: its five-year drought against the Crimson and its two crushing defeats on the West Coast.
The Elis opened the season with three straight wins against Michigan, Hofstra and Drexel before dropping two games to the powerhouse schools out west, bringing their season record to 3–2. On Friday, they will face No. 20 Harvard (5–1, 0–0 Ivy) to mark the beginning of conference play, before they turn their attention to local foe Sacred Heart (6–4, 0–0 Northeast) on Sunday.
“[This weekend’s matches are] a matter of playing good hockey,” head coach Pam Stuper said. “It’s a matter of playing the game that we’re capable of playing and playing Yale field hockey style. Part of the reason why we took the California trip was to prepare for our upcoming Ivy season.”
Last weekend, the Bulldogs saw Stanford pull ahead with two goals in the first five minutes, and the Cardinal continued to pile on to reach the final 5–0 scoreline despite a strong showing by Yale.
The Bulldogs’ play deteriorated against Cal-Berkeley two days later, as they fell 3–1. Despite the respectable scoreline against the Golden Bears, Yale’s performance didn’t come close to reaching the heights of its early season play.
“We want to make up for the past weekend and really come out harder than ever and just play the way we know we can,” forward Anissa Abboud ’21 said. “We plan on using every advantage we have to come out with a win tomorrow and for Sunday at home.”
The Bulldogs have not won against the Crimson since a 2–1 overtime success in 2012. Last year, the rivalry game was particularly bittersweet — Yale jumped out to an early lead and, with the help of 17 saves from then-rookie goalie Sydney Terroso ’21, held off Harvard to preserve its one-goal lead until the final minute. But with just 36 seconds left on the clock, the Crimson notched an equalizer, forcing the match into overtime. Harvard triumphed in the extra time, extending its win streak against Yale another year. But the Elis are looking to put past results behind them, shaking off both last year’s heartbreaker and last weekend’s weak performance at Cal.
“We won’t approach this game any differently than our other games,” said Terroso, who earned first-team All-Ivy honors for her rookie campaign. “We are ready to come out and challenge Harvard by playing our game.”
Harvard is coming into the game fresh off wins against Northeastern and UMass last weekend. The Crimson made strong showings in both games, with goalkeepers Libby Manela and Ellie Shahbo shutting out Northeastern and UMass respectively.
The team as a whole outshot both opponents by a combined margin of 37–6 and has dropped just one match this year, to No. 2 Maryland. In the Crimson’s five other matches, it has won by a combined scoreline of 19–3. Forward Natalie Sicher earned Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week honors after netting a hat trick in the UMass game, leading the team to a sweeping victory.
Harvard, which concluded its 2017 season second in the Ivy League, will undeniably be a strong opponent for Yale, but not one the Bulldogs haven’t prepared for.
“We have trained for this situation, with the countless hours in the weight room and on the field, so we look forward to actually be able to put these new skills, and this new team, into play,” captain and back Jackie Kisa ’19 said. “It’s an incredible feeling to play ‘good hockey,’ where passes are met and goals are scored and it is this relaxed, yet focused style that has led us to many victories in the past.”
After they return from Cambridge, the Bulldogs will be back in the Carol Roberts Field House on Sunday to play Sacred Heart. In their 2017 season opener, the Elis defeated the Pioneers 6–2 for a triumphant start to the season, and they will look to repeat that success this weekend. Neither team will have a home turf advantage over the other — the Pioneers use Johnson Field as their home field.
Sacred Heart started the season strong, with four narrow victories in its first five matches, but enters Sunday’s match on a two-game losing streak. On Tuesday, the Pioneers fell 2–1 in a low-scoring match against Hofstra. The Elis faced the Pride in their second match of the year, battling their way to a 3–1 win.
Yale plays Harvard on Friday at 6 p.m. and hosts Sacred Heart at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
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