Sept. 9, 2006
NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The Yale field hockey team endured seven one-goal losses last season, but none of them compared to their first such loss this season. On a sunny, hot afternoon at Johnson Field, the Bulldogs pushed the defending Ivy League champion Princeton Tigers to the limit before succumbing 2-1.
"I've never been more proud of a Yale team than today," said head coach Pam Stuper, who spent eight years with Yale as an assistant before taking over as head coach last year. "Not even through our ECAC championships or any other victory. We walked off the field with nothing left to give. That's all you can ask."
The Bulldogs (1-2, 0-1 Ivy) were tested right from the start by the team that has claimed 11 of the last 12 Ivy League titles. Senior goalkeeper Elizabeth Friedlander kicked away a shot by Katie Kinzer two minutes in, and shortly after that one of Yale's top defenders - senior Emily Palilonis - headed for the sideline and was out for the rest of the game.
That began a recurring theme for the day: Princeton penalty corners. The Tigers had four within a span of three minutes shortly after Palilonis' departure, but could not convert any of them. A spectacular diving save by Friedlander, one of 11 on the day for her, denied reigning Ivy League player of the year Paige Schmidt 12 minutes in.
Princeton also struggled to control the ball on many of those penalty corners, and as the half wore on the Bulldogs hung tough. A diving shot attempt by senior Heather Orrico was blocked with under 10 minutes left in the first, and the Bulldogs pressed to find more ways to generate offense.
The first goal of the game did not come until Princeton drew its eighth penalty corner of the half as time expired. The Tigers connected on this one when reigning Ivy League rookie of the year Sarah Reinprecht set up Kaitlin Donovan for the 1-0 lead.
It was a disheartening end to a hard-fought half, but Yale showed no signs of a letdown. Just 3:44 into the second half, junior Cat Lindroth set up junior Harriet Thayer for a shot that Princeton goalkeeper Allison Nemeth got a piece of only to have the ball trickle past her into the goal.
"We came out at halftime knowing we had to go right out with the same effort," Stuper said. "The kids did just that. We just couldn't get that second goal that we needed."
As the game wore on the Bulldogs continued to make their makeshift lineup work, though the heat certainly took its toll. Three freshmen and four sophomores saw action, while veterans such as Orrico and senior Lindsay Collins also shined.
"We had kids in positions they had never played before, and we had kids coming off the bench that had barely played at all," Stuper said. "Lindsay Collins, back at midfield, did a phenomenal job. She shut them down on the right side."
The Tigers finally broke through with just under 24 minutes left. As Friedlander dashed out to try to break up the play Tina Bortz sent the ball towards Kinzer. She got just enough of it to deflect it, sending it bouncing past Friedlander and into the goal.
A minute later a nice save by Friedlander denied another Princeton penalty corner, but shortly after that Orrico's shot on a Yale penalty corner was deflected away.
The Bulldogs called timeout with 6:14 left, and Friedlander made another save on a shot by Schmidt off a penalty corner. The play of the game, however, came at the other end of the field two minutes later. Nemeth came sliding out to knock the ball away from Yale freshman Ashley McCauley, who had a clear path to the goal. That sealed the 2-1 win, Princeton's narrowest margin of victory over the Bulldogs since 1989 (1-0).
"It was a phenomenal team effort," Stuper said. "We just came up on the wrong end."
The final score also reflected a dramatic improvement over Yale's prior outing, a 6-0 loss at No. 8 UConn on Wednesday.
"That's the reason we put UConn on the schedule," Stuper said. "It showed us our weaknesses. We broke it down Thursday and Friday, and all of the things I told our players to change, they changed. We couldn't have been more prepared."
Princeton finished with 16 penalty corners to just three for Yale.
Yale travels to the Midwest for games at Michigan State Thursday, at Northwestern Saturday and against Stanford at Northwestern Sunday.
report by Sam Rubin '95 (firstname.lastname@example.org), Yale Sports Publicity