Bulldogs Edge Penn 2-1 to Maintain Their Grip on First Place

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Yale celebrates Gabrielle Garcia's goal. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Garcia, Borgo Score Goals

PHILADELPHIA – The Yale field hockey team entered Sunday afternoon's game vs. Penn at Franklin Field knowing that only a win would be good enough to keep pace atop the Ivy League standings. The Bulldogs began the weekend as part of a five-way tie for first, and two of the teams they were tied with -- Columbia and Princeton -- picked up wins Saturday. In the process two other teams -- Dartmouth and Harvard -- got weeded out of the first-place logjam, and to avoid a similar fate Yale wound up having to make a comeback on unfamiliar turf. The Quakers grabbed a 1-0 lead midway through the first and made that lead stand up for almost 30 minutes, but in the end the Bulldogs got the goals that they needed -- from sophomore forwards Gabby Garcia and Erica Borgo -- to come away with the win.

Yale had a decided advantage in shots (18-5), shots on goal (10-4) and corners (14-4), but still this victory wound up being by the slimmest of margins -- a stark contrast to Yale's first three Ivy wins (over Cornell, Dartmouth and Harvard), which came by a combined score of 17-4.

"That's our sport," said Yale head coach Pam Stuper. "Sometimes there are some tight matches even when one team gets the majority of the scoring chances. We had to be persistent."

The SprinTurf surface at Franklin Field added to the challenge. The longer artificial grass slowed the ball down and created plenty of unpredictable bounces. As a result, one of the Bulldogs' most potent weapons -- their attack corners -- wound up producing zero goals on 14 chances. 

"We prepared on this type of turf at Yale for four days," said Stuper. "We were more than ready to play on this surface, but we had some trouble with the insert and the stick stop. We didn't expect that to go wrong, and when it did I think we got a little frustrated. Eventually we recognized what we could control and what adjustments we needed to make."

Despite a 10-4 shot advantage for Yale in the first half, Penn (3-11, 1-4 Ivy League) got the half's only goal when attacker Julie Tahan knocked one in at the 18:17 mark. Quaker keeper Kieran Sweeney made three saves in the half (eight for the game) to send Yale into halftime down 1-0.

The first 10 minutes of the second half saw Yale (8-6, 4-1 Ivy League) maintain near-constant control of the ball down in Penn's end of the field, but the scoring chances continued to slip away. Junior forward Maddy Sharp made a great drive along the baseline two minutes in, fighting her way through a series of defenders and drawing Sweeney out of position before crossing the ball, but no-one was home for Yale at the far post and the pass sailed out of the circle.

Five Yale corners then went for naught, but before the Bulldogs' frustration could mount any more they got the equalizer. Garcia knocked in a pass from senior back Taylor Sankovich at 45:09.

Garcia has certainly made her position switch from back to forward pay off this year, notching her first three career goals -- none bigger than Sunday's.

"When Gabby's in a good ready position, she is capable of scoring a lot," Stuper said.

Shortly after the Bulldogs tied the game Penn called timeout, and the Quakers were able to re-group enough to generate some runs into Bulldog territory. As the game continued to hang in the balance, Sweeney added a nice kick save on a shot by junior midfielder Mary Beth Barham with 19 minutes to play. Barham (two shots) was one of six Yale players with multiple shots Sunday, a list led by senior forward Mia Rosati (four shots).

"Mary Beth had an outstanding game," Stuper said. "And Mia played one of the best games she's had."

It gradually became clear that it was going to take some creativity to get the go-ahead goal, and that was where Borgo came in. After receiving a pass from senior midfielder Kirsten Krebs at the edge of the circle, she drove toward the left side. Borgo had her back to the goal, and had a defender on her, as Sweeney came charging out of the cage to close off the angle. Still, Borgo somehow found a way to lift the ball on her backhand and loft it just high enough to get it past Sweeney while also keeping it low enough to tuck it underneath the cross bar at the far post.

 "That was a fantastic goal," Stuper said. "One for the highlight reel and not something you see every day. She read the goalkeeper and put the ball far enough away from her that she couldn't make the save."

The Bulldogs came up empty on two corners after that, but Yale's defense remained intent on making the one-goal lead stand up. The Quakers wound up not even getting a shot on goal in the second half. Senior back Erin Carter, Yale's captain, broke up one of Penn's last good runs with a tackle at the two-minute mark. The Quakers also had the ball deep in Yale territory with a minute to play, but sophomore midfielder/back Georgia Holland broke up a pass and the Bulldogs eventually cleared the ball to Rosati, who dribbled off the final seconds after a Penn foul to seal the win. Sophomore goalie Emily Cain finished with three saves.

"I'm proud of our team because this was a battle," Stuper said. "We knew that on this surface it would be. We handled the change in style of play well enough to win."

In addition to keeping Yale in first, the victory sets up a showdown in New York City next Friday night, when the Bulldogs visit one of the teams that is also tied for first. Game time vs. Columbia is 6 p.m.

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