September 3, 2011

Cardinal Comeback Spoils “Get a Grip” Game, 3-1

No. 20 Stanford Earns Win in Bulldogs' Opener

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – For more than 40 minutes on Saturday morning at Johnson Field, the Yale field hockey team looked ready to deliver a storybook ending to its "Get a Grip" Myotonic Dystrophy Foundation fundraiser game. Thanks to an early goal by junior forward Maddy Sharp, the Bulldogs held a 1-0 lead on No. 20 Stanford in front of a large home crowd that was on hand to support the team and the cause. But three goals in a span of less than seven minutes by Stanford quickly shifted momentum, and the Cardinal held on for the 3-1 win.

Yale (0-1) was playing its season opener, while Stanford (3-1) already had three games of experience. Adding to the challenge for the Bulldogs was the fact that one of their two preseason scrimmages, crucial for early-season preparation, had been wiped out by Hurricane Irene. Yet just 1:56 into Saturday's game it was Yale that jumped out on top. After a shot by junior forward Mary Beth Barham was stopped, the Bulldogs kept the pressure on and sophomore forward Emily Schuckert sent the ball on goal from the right side of the circle. Sharp got a piece of it to deflect it past Stanford keeper Ale Moss.

"That was a great way to start," said Yale head coach Pam Stuper. "I was proud of the way we stepped on the field. Instead of waiting for something to happen, we said 'we'll do it', and that gave us some momentum."

As the half wore on the Cardinal defense gradually began clamping down, and offensive opportunities became few and far between for the Bulldogs. Still, with sophomore goalkeeper Emily Cain looking solid in net, Yale held a 1-0 until shortly after halftime.

But when Stanford broke through, it broke through in a big way. Attacker Katie Mitchell's goal at 41:24 started the three-goal run, which also included tallies by defender Hannah Thiemann and attacker Emily Henriksson.

"I think we got back on our heels after scoring that early goal, and Stanford got to some 50-50 balls," said Stuper. "It was impressive that we were able to hold on to the lead for that long even though we were still working out the kinks in our first game. In the first game you get to learn a lot about your team, and we gained a lot out of today in that regard."

One thing the Bulldogs learned is that Cain appears ready to step in as the leader in goal after having her promising freshman campaign cut short by injury. She made 11 saves on Saturday, keeping her team in the game despite a 22-10 shot advantage for Stanford.

As impressive as Cain was, Saturday was also about her fellow goalkeeper -- junior Ona McConnell. Ever since McConnell was diagnosed with myotonic dystrophy, the most common form of muscular dystrophy, in her feshman year, her teammates have rallied around her cause. Last season marked the debut of the "Get a Grip" campaign, which included McConnell's varsity debut in a 5-0 win over Sacred Heart in the season opener. Last year's campaign raised more than $50,000. After this Saturday's game, Myotonic Dystrophy Foundation executive director Lisa Harvey addressed the crowd and delivered the good news that the 2011-12 campaign has already raised more than $20,000. That number will increase throughout the season as pledges come in for the season-long "Goal-a-thon", in which donors donate based on the number of goals Yale scores this year.

"Ona has certainly been an inspiration," Stuper said. "She's battling a crippling disease that currently has no cure, yet she still brings a super mentality to practice every day. It has been great to see the support of the entire Yale community, because today's crowd clearly included more than just parents and friends. All season long we have the opportunity to score goals not just to win games, but also to help make progress in finding a cure for myotonic dystrophy."

Every goal Yale scores this season brings the world closer to a cure for myotonic dystrophy. Junior goalkeeper Ona McConnell (London, England) has been diagnosed with the disease, the most common form of muscular dystrophy. The Bulldogs are taking pledges for a season-long "Goal-a-thon" as part of their "Get a Grip" campaign to raise awareness and funds for the Myotonic Dystrophy Foundation. For more information, visit http://www.yalebulldogs.com/getagrip

Report by Sam Rubin '95 (sam.rubin@yale.edu), Yale Sports Publicity

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