NEW HAVEN, Conn. – It was a memorable Senior Day for the Yale field hockey team on Saturday -- thanks, in part, to the first-year class. The Bulldogs celebrated their four seniors (goalkeeper Chaney Kalinich, back Jackie Kisa, midfielder Marissa Medici and forward Brooke Reese) before the game against Columbia, the last home game of the season. Hours later, with the game knotted 1-1 after two scoreless overtimes, the Bulldogs sent a lineup of all-first years into the shootout. Thanks to three scores from the rookies and some big saves from sophomore goalkeeper Sydney Terroso, Yale earned a 2-1 win. Back Katie Pieterse delivered the game-winner, touching off a huge celebration.
The weather conditions -- cold and rainy, with wind gusting more than 20 miles per hour -- set the backdrop for what wound up being an epic battle between two evenly matched Ivy League teams. Columbia (7-8, 2-4 Ivy League) took a 1-0 lead in the first half on a goal by midfielder Jamie McCormick, but Yale (9-7, 3-3 Ivy League) answered on a penalty corner early in the second. Stick stopper Sarah King sent the insert past the swing of midfielder Théodora Dillman and right to midfielder Bridget Condie, who fired in her seventh goal of the season and tied the game 1-1.
That was how the score remained as regulation wound down, thanks to multiple saves down the stretch by Terroso. She kicked aside a shot by midfielder Emily Maclean on a penalty corner with 22 minutes left, then denied another corner attempt by Maclean with less than 13 minutes to play. The Lions called time before their final corner of regulation, with 5:16 left, but Terroso delivered another kick save and helped send the game to overtime.
Each team had its chances during the two overtimes, but six saves by Terroso and two by Columbia keeper Katie Dempsey kept the score tied. Terroso had one of her best saves on the day with 50 seconds left in the second overtime, reacting quickly to get over and stuff an attempt by a wide-open McCormick off a cross from forward Danielle Buttinger.
That set up the dramatic shootout. Stuper's decision to have her first four shooters be first years was no accident.
"We practice overtime play every week, and we practice shootouts throughout the week," said Stuper. "We have 10 or 12 kids we rotate in, so we have plenty of options. In this case it came down to choosing which ones we thought would be good against a big goalkeeper (Dempsey is 6-foot-1). The first years have been doing a great job. They do it in practice, and today they did it in a game."
First up was midfielder Alissa Wong. She got Dempsey to come out, then quickly darted left around her and fired in a diving backhand shot.
"That was a beautiful goal," said Stuper. "Alissa's been one of our most consistent people on shootouts in practice. To make that move and nail it on the backhand set the tone."
Terroso then established momentum squarely in Yale's favor with another spectacular stop. After midfielder Danielle Farkas' initial move appeared to leave the far corner of the cage open, Terroso dove to her right and got her stick out just far enough to deflect the shot away.
Another Bulldog first year then stepped up, as midfielder Théodora Dillman dribbled to the right and powered the ball past Dempsey to give the Bulldogs a 2-0 advantage. Terroso kept that margin intact by forcing Buttinger's attempt off a spin move to sail wide of the cage.
Neither team scored in the third round, with Terroso getting her right leg out to deny McCormick. That set the stage for Pieterse, who less than two weeks earlier had scored her first career goal -- a game-winner vs. Quinnipiac. She was facing a David-vs.-Goliath matchup in the shootout Saturday, standing more than a foot shorter than Dempsey at five-feet tall. But she showed the quickness and offensive intuition that had prompted a recent move up from back to forward, driving directly into Dempsey before spinning to the right and, while falling, sending the game-winner in to the near side of the cage.
"Katie's been great for us in overtime," said Stuper. "This is what these kids do at each practice. We told them to go at speed, go hard, move the keeper."
Pieterse raced into the arms of her teammates to celebrate, and then the Bulldogs mobbed Terroso. She finished with 11 saves, seemingly getting better as the game wore on and the pressure mounted.
"Syd made some big saves," said Stuper. "In the shootout she was phenomenal. Syd's pretty mobile, and she's a gamer. She's a kid that gets up for big opportunities."
The win wound up being an illustration of the mentality the Bulldogs have developed as a team throughout the last four years with the Class of 2019 leading the way. The team won just three games when these seniors were in their first year, but the Bulldogs are now on the brink of a 10 win season. A victory at Brown next Saturday would give them double-digit victories for the first time since the 2011 Ivy League Championship season.
"In the pregame I talked about the seniors being a class that believed," said Stuper. "They always believed we could win. This was a game about believing, and four seniors that believed."
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (firstname.lastname@example.org), Yale Sports Publicity