October 15, 2011

Win Over Dartmouth, 5-1, Lifts Yale into Tie for First

Hat Trick for Holland, 13 Saves for Cain

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The race for the Ivy League field hockey championship got thrown wide open Saturday afternoon, courtesy of the Yale Bulldogs. The Blue knocked off Dartmouth 5-1 at Johnson Field, handing the Big Green its first league loss of the year and creating a five-way tie for first place with three Ancient Eight games left. Sophomore midfielder/back Georgia Holland had a hat trick, sophomore goalkeeper Emily Cain made 13 saves, and freshman forward Jessie Accurso delivered a highlight-reel goal that broke a 1-1 tie and propelled the Bulldogs to victory.

Dartmouth (8-5, 3-1 Ivy League) had a decided advantage in shots for the game, 28-19. But the Bulldogs were more efficient in the circle, and shots on goal were actually even: 14 apiece. That was where Cain made the difference, turning what could have been a back-and-forth shootout into a four-goal victory for the Bulldogs. Her baker's dozen batch of saves helped quell a Dartmouth attack that had averaged nearly four goals per game in its last seven games. Big Green midfielder Kelly Hood, who entered the week leading the Ivy League in goals and points (11-5-27), was held scoreless.

"Dartmouth has been having a great season," said Yale head coach Pam Stuper. "I was very impressed watching them on film, and we knew this was going to be a battle between two really solid teams with the ability to score."

Dartmouth got the game's first goal, with forward Ali Savage picking the ball out of the air off a pass from midfielder Lisa Masini and backhanding it in. That put the Bulldogs in a 1-0 hole less than eight minutes into the game.

"The way we started wasn't as strong as I would have liked," Stuper said. "But after Dartmouth scored we started to step up. That goal was a wake-up call."

The Bulldogs answered almost immediately on a penalty corner, as Holland got a piece of senior midfielder Dinah Landshut's shot to tip it in at the 11:15 mark.

Yale got three corners in succession midway through the first but was unable to convert. Senior back Erin Carter had one shot deflected away and sent another one wide, and Dartmouth's Meagan Vakiener (nine saves) got low to stop a blast from senior back Taylor Sankovich on the other one.

The Bulldogs finally broke through thanks to a spectacular individual effort on ball in transition out of the Yale end. With Vakiener charging out of the goal, Accurso beat her to the ball with a diving, one-handed effort from just inside the circle. Accurso got just enough on the ball, and it rolled into the goal to give the Bulldogs a 2-1 lead at 26:09.

"Jessie works so hard, and that goal was a product of hard work," Stuper said.

Dartmouth had a chance to even the game, but it was denied when Cain stopped forward Meghan Everett with the Bulldogs caught in transition. The Big Green also got a corner with seven minutes left in the half, but Cain made the save on back Liz Blanken's shot and junior forward Maddy Sharp cleared the ball away.

A Yale corner right before the half gave the Bulldogs a chance to extend their lead. Senior back/midfielder Chelsey Locarno kept the ball alive as the play seemed to break down. Landshut was eventually able to fire it in front, where Holland knocked it in to make it 3-1 1:42 before halftime.

"It was nice going into the half with a two-goal lead," Stuper said. "That gave us the confidence to know that when we play the way we're capable of playing, we're going to score."

Big Green midfielder Janine Leger sent a shot just inches wide right 45 seconds into the second half, and Carter then made a great defensive stop by breaking up a pass from Hood during a Big Green 2-on-1 90 seconds later.

Yale (6-6, 3-1 Ivy League) then began pulling away when Holland drilled a shot in from the left side to the far post to make it 4-1 with 30:02 to play.

A glance at that stat sheet before the game would have shown Holland with only two goals for the year -- but for those that have followed her, Saturday's offensive outburst from one of the Bulldogs best defensive players was no surprise.

"This is what Georgia is capable of," Stuper said. "She comes out to practice early, works on her corners and works on her shooting. That paid off today."

Dartmouth called time with 19:46 to play. From that point on much of the game was played in Yale's half of the field, but the Big Green could not get anything past Cain. There were three Dartmouth corners in the next eight minutes, but the Big Green sent one shot wide, had another blocked, and had another one whistled dead when Landshut broke up the play and a Dartmouth player swung her stick where the ball should have been and instead came dangerously close to hitting Landshut's head.

Hood drove through the circle with 9:30 to play, but Cain came out to break up her attempt to net the Green's second goal. Two minutes later Cain kicked away Everett's attempt to tip in a pass from right in front of the goal. Cain also used her blocker to knock away a shot with six minutes to play.

The Bulldogs finally regrouped offensively thanks to a steal by sophomore forward Erica Borgo on the left side in Dartmouth territory. Yale eventually got a corner, and Carter and Locarno passed the ball back and forth before Locarno caught the Big Green off guard with a shot that made it 5-1 with 1:20 left.

Cain then put the exclamation mark on the win by kicking away Masini's shot in the final 20 seconds.

As the Bulldogs celebrated their win, so did several interested followers in Cambridge, Mass.; New York, N.Y.; and Princeton, N.J.  Columbia, Harvard and Princeton all won their games this weekend to move into a tie for first with the Bulldogs and the Big Green

Even as part of a five-way tie, the Bulldogs know that they control their own destiny and can win at least a share of the Ivy League title if they win their remaining three league games. As Stuper pointed out, though, the team must remain focused.

"After we lost to Princeton, obviously the team was disappointed but we knew we still controlled our own destiny," Stuper said. "We're taking it one play at a time, one game at a time. Our players know that the only thing that is important right now is Fairfield tomorrow."

The Bulldogs host the Stags Sunday at 2 p.m.

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