McConnell Finishes Off 5-0 Shutout of SHU to Start Get a Grip Campaign Off Right
Borgo's Six Point Night Leads Attack
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – On a night where the Yale attack racked up five goals and out shot Sacred Heart 25-4, the biggest story wound up being the Bulldogs' goalkeeper. Yale started its "Get a Grip" campaign against myotonic dystrophy in honor of sophomore goalie Ona McConnell, who has been diagnosed with the disease. Friday night at Johnson Field -- as the campaign got underway with the team wearing special jerseys and collecting donations for the Myotonic Dystrophy Foundation -- McConnell made her varsity debut and finished off a 5-0 shutout.
Myotonic dystrophy, the most common form of muscular dystrophy, has left McConnell dealing with a series of muscle problems and other issues. But she has not let it keep her from playing the game she loves, and her hard work paid off when she came on in relief of senior Katie Bolling with 10:12 left Friday night.
"We see what Ona has to deal with just to get on the field to practice," said head coach Pam Stuper. "It's tough, dealing with the symptoms, the pain, the muscle cramping. For her to be able to step into a game and play despite the disease is tremendous."
McConnell got a nice round of applause from the crowd as she trotted out to the goal following a Yale timeout. In addition to the special jerseys the Bulldogs wore, "Get a Grip" t-shirts were also available and wound up selling out (they will be re-ordered). Donations were accepted at the main entrance, and anyone who gave money received a blue Myotonic Dystrophy Foundation wristband.
"Having the crowd we did to support our efforts is really exciting," said Stuper. "From the opening whistle to the end of the game, they stayed to support Ona and to support what we're doing."
The Bulldogs' fundraising efforts had them in the "win" column before the game even started. Lisa Vittek, executive director of the Myotonic Dystrophy Foundation, was at the game and said that more than $30,000 had already been raised through on-line donations since the campaign began earlier this summer.
That number figures to grow exponentially if the Bulldogs can keep up the attack they showed Friday, because many donations will come at the end of the season based on "Goal-a-thon" pledges for each goal Yale scores. Sophomore forward Maddy Sharp got the contributions started, driving along the baseline and depositing the first goal of the year at 13:41.
Freshman forward Erica Borgo emerged as an early contributor for the Bulldogs, scoring a pair of goals and adding a pair of assists. Her first came at 16:49 of the first, as she knocked in the rebound of her own shot after a nice save by Pioneer keeper Kim Stow.
Borgo also scored the final goal of the game, assisted by freshman midfielder/back Georgia Holland, with 3:38 to play. That was after a pair of goals on penalty corners by junior midfielder/back Taylor Sankovich.
"Taylor has worked very hard the last couple years on her hits, and it has paid off," said Stuper. "I anticipate her being a scoring threat all season long."
With Borgo excelling as inserter and Sankovich showing the scoring touch, the other key element to Yale's re-configured penalty corner unit was junior midfielder Dinah Landshut, who has taken over as stick stopper. She had a pair of assists on corner goals Friday night.
With all of Yale's field players seeing action, the season opener showcased the Bulldogs' depth. It also gave reason to believe that the team can follow up on the successes of 2009, when the Bulldogs went 12-5, earned votes in the national poll, and set the school record for wins in Ivy League play.
"You always anticipate the first game as a chance to build on last year while also incorporating the freshmen," said Stuper. "Our returning players have definitely stepped up, and the freshmen have added something as well."
For further information on the Get a Grip campaign, visit http://www.yalebulldogs.com/getagrip
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (email@example.com), Yale Sports Publicity