September 22, 2013

Accurso's Game-Winner Caps Comeback in 3-2 Victory over Vermont

Bulldogs Rally from 2-0 Deficit

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Three goals in the final 20:22 Sunday afternoon at Johnson Field propelled the Yale field hockey team to an exhilarating come-from-behind win over Vermont, capped by the game-winner from junior forward Jessie Accurso with 6:45 left in regulation. The Bulldogs, coming off a tough 3-2 loss to archrival Harvard Saturday, dominated play to the tune of a 41-9 shot advantage and a 13-0 edge in penalty corners en route to securing their second victory of the season.

"The team bounced back from a really disappointing loss to earn this win," said Pam Stuper, Yale's Caroline Ruth Thompson '02 Head Coach of Field Hockey. "This was a tribute to teamwork and relentless play. We had outstanding performances from everyone, and I could not ask for more."

For nearly 50 minutes of game action, though, things looked bleak for Yale as Vermont goalie Stephanie Zygmunt -- who was second in the nation in saves per game last season -- stopped everything that was thrown her way. Vermont (0-8, 0-0 America East) held a 2-0 lead at halftime despite the fact that Yale outshot the Catamounts 23-9 and had eight penalty corners. Zygmunt made 18 saves in the first, including a spectacular denial of senior forward/midfielder Erica Borgo halfway through the period in which Zygmunt was sprawled out on the turf but reached out with her stick to deny Borgo from point-blank range. On Yale's final corner of the half the Bulldogs kept the ball in the circle for three shots -- by senior midfielder Emily Schuckert, sophomore back Molly Wolf and senior midfielder/back Georgia Holland -- but all were turned aside.

Both of Vermont's goals came from forward Ashley McDonald, who now has seven for the season.

Yale (2-4, 0-1 Ivy League) finally got one past Zygmunt on a penalty corner 15 minutes into the second half. Borgo inserted to Schuckert, who stopped it for Holland to rifle it in and pull the Bulldogs within 2-1.

Another Yale corner set up the next Bulldog goal. Holland once again ripped a shot towards the net, but it was blocked. Freshman forward Rhoni Gericke got the ball over to Borgo, who lofted it in to tie the game 2-2 with 12:50 to play.

Yale had a golden chance to take the lead with eight minutes to play when Accurso drew Zygmunt out of position and passed to Schuckert, but Schuckert's shot at the open net got deflected over the crossbar. A minute later, though, Borgo set up Accurso for a diving goal that put the Bulldogs ahead 3-2.

That was Accurso's first goal of the season; of her seven career goals, three have been game-winners.

"Jessie works really hard, and I am a firm believer that hard work eventually pays off," said Stuper. "For Jessie, that has meant some big goals when we need them."

Borgo's four-point day moved her past Erin Carter '12 (35-7-77) into fifth place on Yale's career scoring list (23-33-79). Borgo is also third on Yale's career assists list and tied for 10th on Yale's career goals list.

Senior goalkeeper Emily Cain and junior goalkeeper Heather Schlesier split time in goal. Neither Yale keeper had to make a save, while Zygmunt ended up with 26. Sophomore midfielder Nicole Wells broke up one last Vermont run in the final seconds and the Bulldogs finished off the win with the ball in Catamount territory.

The victory came after Yale made multiple position switches  and lineup changes -- including the second start of the season for Accurso -- in the wake of the team's three-game losing streak. Gericke and junior forward Grace McInerney earned their first career starts.

"We needed to try something different, because we have struggled the last few games," said Stuper. "We called on a couple different people to see how they would perform, and also saw some people in different positions."

Up next, Yale travels to Ivy League rival Princeton for a Friday night game.

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