NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Senior sisters Emilie Katz, a goalie, and Steffi Katz, a midfielder/back and team captain, have made plenty of big plays for the Yale field hockey team throughout their careers. But on Saturday against Penn at Johnson Field they both came through for a moment that none will soon forget -- a remarkable overtime sequence in which Emilie delivered an amazing save that led just seconds later to the game-winning goal by Steffi. It was Steffi's first career goal.
The play started at Yale's end of the field, where Penn forward Alexa Hoover -- a second team All-American who entered the day third in the Ivy League in points -- appeared to have set up forward/midfielder Karen Seid with a pass across to the left side of the circle for a wide-open shot at the cage. But Emilie Katz displayed her reaction speed and athleticism, quickly darting across and sliding out to smother the attempt by Seid.
The next key part of that sequence came from freshman forward/midfielder Bridget Condie, who quickly sent the loose ball up the field to a wide-open senior forward Danee Fitzgerald for a breakaway. But Penn keeper Liz Mata made a great play of her own, knocking the ball away from a hard-charging Fitzgerald to stymie the Bulldogs -- momentarily.
Fitzgerald tumbled to the turf after colliding with Mata, but got back up quickly enough to take a pass from junior forward/midfielder Carol Middough low in the left side of the circle. Fitzgerald then crossed it to Steffi Katz in front. After gathering the ball in, Katz spun around and chipped it high past Mata's right shoulder for the game-winner.
Steffi Katz was mobbed by her teammates as they celebrated the emotional win, Yale's first vs. Penn since the 2011 Ivy League Championship season.
"Steffi had a fantastic day," said Pam Stuper, Yale's Caroline Ruth Thompson '02 Head Coach of Field Hockey. "Her leadership as captain was strong, and she played quality minutes from start to finish. Emilie was outstanding; today was one of her best performances at Yale."
Such a dramatic finish might have seemed unlikely after the first half, as Yale (6-8, 2-3 Ivy League) jumped out to a 2-0 lead while outshooting the Quakers 8-5. A goal at 15:50 by sophomore forward Allie Carrigan off a rebound on a penalty corner (assisted by Condie) got the Bulldogs off to a good start. After a big defensive save by freshman back Holly Jackson -- she knocked away a Penn shot that had gotten past Emilie Katz and was headed over the goal line -- Yale eventually extended the lead to 2-0 on a goal by Middough.
But Penn (9-5, 3-2 Ivy League) answered quickly in the second half, scoring a pair of penalty corner goals (by forward Sofia Palacios and forward/midfielder Elise Tilton) to tie the game 2-2.
As storm clouds that had been gathering all morning started sending down a pouring rain, the game turned into a battle between Emilie Katz and Mata -- highlighted by a great save from Katz on a shot by Palacios with less than 16 minutes to go. Mata came through with a crucial stop of her own five minutes later, breaking up a chance for junior midfielder/forward Katie Smith. Katz then made a save on Palacios with 90 seconds left, and the game headed into overtime.
Early on in OT Katz made another key stop, this one on midfielder Rachel Huang two minutes in. Huang had gotten behind the defense for a pass from Hoover, but Katz came out to poke the ball away from her. Katz then seemed to outdo herself, starting when she slid out to deny a chance by Palacios. Katz was down on the turf when Hoover swooped in for the loose ball, heading for an apparently empty cage. But Katz got up just in time to dive out and flick away Hoover's shot attempt, a remarkable play that kept the score tied 2-2.
But the best, of course, was yet to come. Katz' save that started the game-winning sequence was her 11th of the game, making this the sixth time this season she has reached double digits in saves. And Steffi Katz' goal just moments later provided a fitting end to this hard-fought battle.
"I didn't need to say a lot to the players heading into overtime," said Stuper. "The energy was really high. And then that last play was bookended by Emilie Katz on one end making the save that kept us in the game, and Steffi Katz at the other end finishing it."
Yale returns to action next Saturday, hosting Columbia at 12:00 p.m.
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (firstname.lastname@example.org), Yale Sports Publicity