On Wednesday, Sept. 14, field hockey captured its first win of the 2016 season by defeating Eastern Connecticut State University 2-1 in a victory that was determined by a shootout.
Unlike their previous two starts this season, in which they failed to generate much offense, the Cardinals came out firing against the Warriors and took an early 1-0 lead when Abby Warren ’19 connected with Tess Iannarone ’18, who recorded her first goal of the season. The score would remain unaltered until midway through the second half. The Warriors took penalty corner after penalty corner and peppered goalie Claire Edelman ’17 with a number of shots, eventually breaking through to tie the game with about 20 minutes left in regulation. While both teams had their chances, neither was able to break the tie after 70 minutes of play.
Following a quick water break, the Cardinals and Warriors were back on the field to start the first 15-minute overtime (OT). The play during the first OT was fairly even with both teams getting a couple quality chances, but neither squad could prevail, leading to a second 15-minute OT period. The Warriors gave a final offensive push to evade a shootout, but Edelman and the Cardinals’ defense was up for the challenge, defending three penalty corners and six shots. After 100 minutes of play, a winner had yet to be determined, and the contest continued into the final shootout stage. The Cardinals were 6-6 in shootouts in the history of the program heading into the day. However, they had won their previous three shootouts and were looking to improve their record to 5-2 in shootouts since the 2000 season.
After the first two rounds, the score was tied at 1-1. Then, Caitlin Wood ’19 put her shot past the Warriors’ netminder, and a save by Edelman gave the Cards a 2-1 lead. Both teams would miss in the next frame. In the final round, team captain Lauren Yue ’17 buried the shot in the back of the net, giving the Cards the victory.
The Cardinals returned to campus with a win in hand, but up next was defending NESCAC Champion and first-ranked Bowdoin. Although the Cardinals put up a valiant effort, they were no match for the crisp and fast-paced play of the Polar Bears, who claimed a win on Saturday with a 4-0 shutout.
“I think we honestly played better today, although the score doesn’t necessarily reflect it,” Captain Emily Hart ’17 said. “Our movement was a lot better, and our defensive unit looked a lot better. We had some offensive opportunities as well.”
Despite giving up four first-half goals, the Cards hung with the Bears throughout the game. What stood out the most was the tenacity of the Cards’ defensive unit, especially in the second half. The Bears took 26 shots and had 11 penalty corners on Saturday and yet the defense withstood the onslaught and held strong for the Birds.
“It was a great second half,” Head Coach Patti Klecha-Porter said. “We were playing the number one team in the country, and I felt our defense was doing a very good job. I give credit a lot to Bowdoin, they found a way to put it in because our defense was playing them really tough.”
While a 4-0 loss was not precisely how the Cardinals had envisioned their home opener on the resurfaced Smith Field, the game will help them adjust to how the surface plays differently from the old one. In preparation for their next home game on Wednesday, Sept. 21 against Mount Holyoke College under the lights at 7 p.m., the Cards will use practice to sharpen their passes and overall pace of play as they adjust to the slower surface of the playing field.
“We need to move to the ball more instead of standing behind defenders and waiting for the ball to come to us,” Yue said. “I think that’s a huge thing, especially on our turf because it’s so slow. You really have to run to each ball and hit each ball really hard to get it to the next player.”
If the Cardinals are able to work on this and the defense continues to play the way it has been so far, the team should be able to create more opportunities on the offensive end and will put themselves in position for a win in Wednesday night’s game.