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In its home opener, the Yale field hockey team (3–1, 0–0 Ivy) continued its early hot streak with a 1–0 victory over Sacred Heart (0–4, 0–0 NEC) on Friday, and extended their winning streak against Drexel (record, 0–0 CAA) on Sunday 2–1.

These were the team’s first games on the newly-renovated Johnson Field. Yale Athletics marked the occasion — in conjunction with the field hockey program’s 50th anniversary — with a massive turnout for Alumni Weekend. 

Under the Friday night lights, the Bulldogs took on Connecticut rival Sacred Heart. The teams battled hard in the first half, but came up scoreless when the buzzer sounded at the half. 

The break between periods must have put a fire under the Elis, as less than a minute into the third quarter, forward Ellie Barlow ’25 deflected the ball into the Pioneers’ net off her own penalty corner. 

Sacred Heart had a hard time getting to the other side of the field, only getting two shots off, neither of which made it to goalie Luanna Summer ’24. 

On Sunday, Yale found itself under intense pressure in the opening minutes of the game. Summer was forced into three saves within the first five minutes, including a crucial deflection off a penalty corner that drew a roar from the fan section. The Bulldogs’ bend-but-don’t-break philosophy would be a constant theme throughout the game.

While Drexel struggled to execute on chances in its offensive zone, Yale wasted no time converting on its first big chance of the game. Midfielder captain Alissa Wong ’23 gathered the ball at the top of the zone and lasered a pass in to Barlow, who redirected it in. Drexel, unfazed by the 1–0 deficit, continued to push back the Yale defense, earning several penalty corners. 

With seconds remaining in the first quarter, Drexel’s Amber Brouwer broke the Yale lines on a breakaway opportunity and looked certain to score, but was thwarted by a charging Summer, who demonstrated incredible awareness and reflexes to make a diving save, her fifth of the period. 

Yale extended its lead to 2–0 in the second quarter after forward Poppy Beales ’26 scored her first career goal off a nifty backhand from open play. Beales, who hails from Norfolk, England, was playing in her first ever game at Johnson Field. 

“I just picked it up, contested the center back, managed to pull it back and get the shot off,” Beales said. “I didn’t think it was going in initially.” 

Beales’ goal was made possible after a great takeaway by midfielder Théodora Dillman ’23, who intercepted a pass and led the counterattack. 

Yale continued to face pressure from the Drexel attack in the second half and finally conceded a goal from the penalty spot when Drexel was awarded a penalty stroke. The controversial call led to a video review, one of the new NCAA rules ahead of the 2022 season.

The video review system is just one part of a multi-million dollar renovation to Johnson Field. Previously infamous for its large exterior area of dark blue turf surrounding an inner, royal blue field, the field now has more traditional green turf. Another major addition is the new video scoreboard, which can show replays and pre-game hype up videos. 

Jackie Kisa ’19, a former captain who traveled from New York to attend the game, said she believes the renovations will impact the team’s success.

“The new scoreboard is game changing when it comes to reviews and hyping up the team before the game,” she said. “I wish we had that in our year.”

Kisa, an avid fan of the program, was confident Yale could hang on to its narrow lead heading into the fourth period saying that the team “has always been a last quarter kinda team.”

Kisa would prove to be correct, as Yale somehow managed to close out the game despite being forced to defend another seven penalty corners. The Dragons had 26 shots, including 15 on target. Summer, who finished with a career-high 14 saves, constantly received cheers from the packed stands and was a crucial player for the win. 

Head coach Melissa Gonzalez praised her team for capitalizing on chances and its strong defensive backbone, but also emphasized a need for improvement in certain areas. 

“Our defensive corner unit really shined against a great Drexel opponent who generated a lot of opportunities. Being able to finish two of our four chances also should be celebrated,” Gonzalez said. “Heading into this weekend, we’ll be looking to refine our counter structure, possession and our choice [and] timing of tackles.”

Gonzalez, who took over as head coach ahead of this season after longtime coach Pam Stuper stepped down to take a position within USA field hockey, gave all the credit to the team for her first ever home win. 

Gonzalez also credited the fans for their big alumni day turnout. 

“The large crowd set an incredible atmosphere for the team to play in,” Gonzalez said. “We were celebrating 50 years of Yale field hockey, and to have the opportunity to play in front of alums, fans, family and friends was special for the group.”

The Yale field hockey team will look to keep its momentum going when it heads to New York to play Colgate (2–4, 0–0 Patriot) on Friday, Sept. 16 at 6:00 p.m. 

BEN RAAB