After senior Gretchen Fuller scored two goals in regulation, sophomore Tami Jafar netted, above, the gamewinner in double overtime.
With the taste of victory still in its mouth, the Harvard field hockey team refused to return to the painful monotony of its 0-10 season opening. For the second time in as many games, the Crimson (2-10, 2-2 Ivy) battled its way to an overtime win, this time overcoming Ivy rival Yale (3-8, 2-2 Ivy) in a 3-2 double-overtime contest.
After eight minutes of back-and-forth double-overtime play, Harvard’s unrelenting offense penetrated the Bulldogs’ line.
The Crimson’s persistence earned the team a valuable penalty corner. Yale denied an initial shot by junior Devon Shapiro but failed to put enough muscle on the ball to clear it out of the circle.
Sophomore Kayla Romanelli took advantage of the tired defense, slinging the ball back toward the Bulldog cage. Again, the Yale goalie saved the shot to preserve the tie. If only for the moment.
Charging the rebound, sophomore Tami Jafar teased her way through the sea of blue and white and dumped the ball across the line to pick up her second goal of the season and help Harvard to its second victory of the season.
“It was a great game with two teams going after it,” Harvard coach Sue Caples said. “It was great to get the win after we worked so hard.”
There was no exaggeration necessary for the Crimson’s consistent intensity throughout the 90-plus minutes of play. The Crimson dominated the Bulldogs, leading 27-9 in the shot column and 12-4 in corners.
Senior Gretchen Fuller’s game-winning overtime goal last week versus Cornell must have left her salivating for more—the Harvard co-captain’s offensive rampage spilled over into the Yale contest, where Fuller again led the forward line. Her two first-half goals gave the Crimson a 2-0 edge for nearly the entire first period.
With the clock barely started, Harvard already found itself in enemy territory, taking a 1-0 advantage in the game’s opening five minutes.
Romanelli, breathing down the neck of the Bulldog goalkeep, got off two quick shots before earning a penalty corner. Shapiro received the ball and whipped it toward the net. Fuller pounced on the rebound and sent the ball screaming into the right corner of the cage.
Yale made the mistake of awarding the Crimson another penalty corner just ten minutes later. Again, Shapiro took the ball and hurled it toward the goal. Sophomore Francine Polet corralled the rebound and passed to Fuller, who one-touched it across the goal line.
Fuller tried for a hat-trick close to halftime. Collecting a pass from Polet off Harvard’s fourth of five corners in the half, Fuller shot, missed, and shot again, the ball edging just left of the post.
The Bulldogs put themselves on the board, netting a late goal in the first. The seemingly harmless 24.3 seconds left on the clock were an eternity for the Crimson defense.
Gaining only two shots in the half, Yale made its second shot count, sending the ball clamoring into the back board to cut the Harvard lead in half before the break.
The Yale momentum, outliving the 15-minute halftime, bolstered the Bulldog attack in the final period of regulation.
Yale’s tenacity ultimately resulted in a game-tying goal at 58:00.
Still hungry for more, the Bulldogs continued their rush, nearly taking the lead in the last eight minutes. Connolly held strong between the pipes, clearing the ball out of the path of a Yale breakaway.
Junior Siobhan Connolly, making a rare appearance in the cage, relieved sophomore starter Kelly Knoche for the second half and both overtime periods.
“As a goalie you always have to be mentally prepared to step in there and play,” said Connolly, who rejected six Bulldog shots and pulled the plug on a Yale surge to end regulation. “Whether you are going in with five minutes left in the game or you have a whole half to play, you just have to focus on playing your hardest and doing your job.”
On Saturday, Knoche, who was “really sick the past week,” started to feel the effects of the illness still lingering in her body.
“[Connolly] did an amazing job,” Knoche said. “I have no doubt it was the best decision for the team.”
Exhausted yet determined, both Harvard and Yale created ample opportunities in the first overtime. The Bulldog goalie denied two Crimson attempts, including a shot by Fuller that was batted out of the air just before it crossed into the net.
Yale, on the last drive of the session, barely missed a well-placed pass that bounced over the receiver’s stick.
“I don’t think anyone expected the game to go into double overtime,” Connolly said. “But once you are there you do what you have to do to win.”
The victory keeps Harvard in Ivy League contention; the Crimson is now tied with Yale and Penn for third place in Ivy standings.
Harvard will look to make it three for four during the current homestand on Wednesday at 7 p.m. against Boston College.
—Staff writer Courtney M. Petrouski can be reached at email@example.com.