September 2, 2012

Bulldogs Regroup, "Get a Grip" on 3-2 Win Over Quinnipiac

Two Assists for Garcia

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – With a large crowd on hand on a sunny Sunday afternoon at Johnson Field for the annual "Get a Grip" fundraiser game for the Myotonic Dystrophy Foundation, the Yale field hockey team had an ideal setting to bounce back from a disappointing 4-0 loss to Fairfield in Friday's season opener. But the Bulldogs fell behind quickly to the Bobcats -- just as they had on Friday to the Stags -- and found themselves still seeking their first goal of the season by the time halftime came around. The second half was a different story, though, as Yale scored early and often -- including the first career goals for freshman forward/midfielder Nicole Wells and freshman back Molly Wolf. Junior midfielder Erica Borgo capped the day with the game-winning goal with 4:54 to play as Yale came away with a 3-2 win.

The day began with fans filing in dressed almost exclusively in the blue "Get a Grip" t-shirts that the team sold as a fundraiser for the Myotonic Dystrophy Foundation. Senior goalkeeper Ona McConnell has been battling that disease since being diagnosed her freshman year, and the Bulldogs' two previous "Get a Grip" campaigns have raised nearly $100,000 for the efforts to raise awareness and find a cure.

Throughout the season, the Bulldogs are accepting donation pledges based on the number of goals the team scores this year. But after setting a school record with 69 goals last year, the Yale attack was off to a slow start this year. Those struggles were compounded by early goals by Yale's opponents in each game, including a tally by Quinnipiac forward Jess Rusin just 2:53 into Sunday's game. The rest of the half was mostly evenly matched, but the Bulldogs nonetheless went into halftime trailing 1-0.

"We had the same amount of shots [seven] and corners [two]," said Yale head coach Pam Stuper. "The difference was that Quinnipiac converted. We just needed to get the ball into scoring areas and convert."

It did not take long for Yale (1-1) to even the score in the second half. Catching the Bobcats in transition, the Bulldogs pushed the ball up quickly and junior forward Gabby Garcia sent it across the front of the goal from the right side. Wells was there to tip it in at the 37:23 mark.

It had taken more than 107 minutes for the Bulldogs to score their first goal of the season, but after that the second one came much more quickly. Less than five minutes after Wells' tally, Wolf joined her classmate in the scoring column when she put home a penalty corner pass from forward/midfielder Emily Schuckert, the stick stopper.

With six starters from last year's Ivy League championship team lost to graduation, Wells, Wolf and their fellow freshmen forward Danee Fitzgerald and midfielder/back Noelle Villa have all seen extensive action already as the Bulldogs seek to find new weapons.

"We expect the freshmen to contribute right away this year," said Stuper. "They are all playing significant minutes."

Among the holes left by graduation was a big one in the Yale backfield, where the Bulldogs lost Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year Erin Carter '12. On Sunday Stuper unveiled a new plan for addressing that loss, as senior midfielder Mary Beth Barham -- a second team All-Ivy selection and one of Yale's top generators of attack -- made the move to Carter's old spot and instantly helped shore up the team's defense.

"Mary Beth has always been a good defender," Stuper said. "She's a good tackler, and she's a fighter. Combined with her athleticism, that allowed her to step into that role and bring the type of leadership and presence that Erin Carter had."

Quinnipiac (2-2) was able to slip one more past junior goalkeeper Emily Cain (six saves) to tie the game 2-2 with 22:53 to play, however. But after a Bulldogs timeout, Yale withstood a series of three Quinnipiac corners in a three-minute span. With time winding down, Borgo was able to knock the ball in off a feed from Garcia to give the Bulldogs a 3-2 lead. Senior back Lexy Adams helped seal the win by deflecting away a Quinnipiac pass into the Yale circle in the final moments. By the time the Bobcats got the ball back, they could not manage another shot.

With the first win of the 2012 season, the Bulldogs showed the ability to move past the season-opening defeat suffered less than 48 hours earlier.

"Friday was a tough loss, but we really showed our resiliency and persistence to turn around what we needed to today in order to get the win," said Stuper. "To come up with a win and score three goals to kick off the 'Get a Grip' campaign in support of Ona and others with this disease makes the day even more rewarding."

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

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