“Breathe. Believe. Battle.”
Amy Schaap ’21 says these three words will give the field hockey team the strength they need to meet their goals this season. Through the challenges of playing in the ultra-competitive NESCAC conference, remembering to stay calm and confident will propel them towards success. This past week, the team was able to practice their new strategy with matchups against No. 7 Babson College and Roger Williams University. Though they saw some ups and downs in this pair of games, including a loss at the hands of Babson, the Red and Black dominated Roger Williams in their home opener, which should give them momentum into their next stretch of competition.
It may have been the long drive to Babson Park, Mass. that seemed to leave the Cardinals unprepared to play on Saturday afternoon, but whatever the cause, the Beavers took full advantage of the Cards’ initial lapse in intensity to score twice in the first three minutes of the game. It was not until then that the defense woke up for the rest of the half, though the deficit proved to be a difficult one to overcome. Although the defense stopped any further goals that half, the Beavers had struck first, and landed a blow the Cards’ offense could not counter.
The Cardinals again struggled to match Babson’s energy at the start of the second half. The Beavers scored a third goal just over three minutes in, giving them a 3-0 advantage. The Cardinals offense finally answered late in the second half, as Erica Horowitz ’20 found the back of the cage unassisted. Unfortunately, it was not the start of a great comeback story. Babson continued to shut down Wesleyan’s attack attempts, and scored once more to end the game with a 4-1 victory over the Cardinals.
The Beavers were aggressive all over the field. The defense only allowed seven shots, with only two shots on target. Goalkeeper Cassidy Riley did not have much work to do. Additionally, forwards and midfielders combined for 23 shots, with 13 on target. Delaney Wood ’20 made nine saves to bring her season total to 15. The Red and Black will have to step up their attack to compete in the weeks to come.
The loss did not appear to weigh on the Cards too heavily, as they returned home to play Roger Williams this past Tuesday having learned from their loss, perhaps reinvigorated by the crisp Middletown air, and prepared to win.
The game got off to a slower start than the Cardinals’ previous competitions, as both teams’ defenses thwarted their oppositions’ offensive attempts. The first goal came with less than ten minutes left in the first half, when Nikki Gerjarusak ’21 put Wes on the board by faking out the Hawks’ goalkeeper Callie Flanagan and making the unassisted shot.
The Cards grew their lead in the second half as Colleen Carrigan ’22, who currently leads the team in shots taken, used her agility to fire the ball past Flanagan to give Wes a 2-0 advantage. Next, Carrigan’s fellow first year Olivia Baglieri scored her first career goal off of a penalty corner dish from Maddie Shea ’20, buffering the Cards’ lead and securing a much needed win. After a tough loss to Babson, Wesleyan walked away from its home opener with a comfortable 3-0 victory at Smith Field.
Schaap said that starting off the season with a series of wins has helped to build up the team’s confidence after last fall’s disappointing season.
“The wins showed us that we’re capable of playing some really beautiful hockey,” she said. “We’re at our best when we trust and rely on each other and that we shouldn’t look to previous seasons to inform our current season.”
Next, the Cardinals will welcome the Bowdoin Polar Bears to Wesleyan in their first NESCAC matchup of the season. The No. 10 Bears have not lost this season, so the Cards will have to come out of the gate ready to play if they hope to compete. Then, the team heads to Northampton, Mass. on Thursday night to face off against Mount Holyoke College. Wherever the Cardinals go, they will have to breathe and believe before they can get ready to battle.
Rose Griffin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.