In a tightly contested matchup between archrivals, the Harvard field hockey team forced overtime with a late goal, but ultimately fell to Yale, 2-1, Saturday at Jordan Field.
The final stat sheet illustrated just how little separated the two teams; both finished with exactly 15 shots and 13 penalty corners.
“We definitely had some opportunities,” coach Tjerk van Herwaarden said. “One of them would have to have gone in early to make the game different, but that didn’t happen, so we just had to push through.”
The lack of early finishing proved costly for the Crimson, as the late comeback effort seemed to drain the team’s energy heading into overtime. Harvard was unable to muster significant offensive pressure in the extra period, and the team’s opponents took full advantage.
“I felt that there was a little bit of a heavy chain behind their legs holding them back,” van Herwaarden said. “This team can be very good if they just release and just play, and I felt that there was a little bit of a block on them.”
The Crimson started the game brightly, winning two penalty corners in the first five minutes. Both teams were inches from getting on the scoreboard early in the first half, as Harvard goalkeeper Cynthia Tassopoulos denied the Bulldogs’ Dinah Landshut from what looked to be an easy tap-in off of a rebound with a full-extension, sprawling save. The Crimson followed with a near miss of its own a few minutes later, as junior forward Bridget McGillivray dribbled herself into space on the left side of the circle and lashed a backhand sharply off of the crossbar.
Yale tallied the first goal of the game off of a penalty corner with just over ten minutes to go in the first half. After the first shot was blocked, the ball got deep into the Harvard circle, sparking a mad scramble in front of net. A rebound squirted out to the Bulldogs’ Mary Beth Barham, who pushed it under Tassopoulos to open the scoring.
Despite some promising stretches of offensive pressure, the Crimson was unable to threaten Yale’s cage until van Herwaarden adjusted the team’s structure following a timeout with eight minutes to play in the second half. The first-year coach opted to keep only three defenders back, adding an extra player to support the attack.
The move paid dividends just four minutes later. McGillivray won a penalty corner off the foot of a Bulldogs defender, and the ensuing move was finished off with a deflection into the top of the cage from sophomore Noel Painter, tying the game up and forcing the extra session.
In overtime, Yale looked the more dangerous team, winning four penalty corners to Harvard’s zero. It was the visitors’ final penalty corner that proved the difference in the game. Barham recovered her own rebound after her initial shot was blocked and swept it low into the bottom-left corner past Tassopoulos for her second goal of the day, setting off a celebration among her teammates and leaving the Crimson standing still in dejection.
“We had great practices this week,” co-captain Kim Goh said. “Obviously, there’s a lot more that goes into it; being our first Ivy [game], it’s a lot more mental. We did a lot of mental prep, and it got us to overtime, but it didn’t get us the win.”
Though Harvard managed to create quality scoring chances periodically throughout the game, the team continues to struggle with putting the ball in the back of the cage. Painter’s late goal was just the team’s third in five games this season, and the first since Sept. 3 against Sacred Heart. Goh was not overly concerned with the dearth of offensive production, believing that it’s mostly a matter of the bounces starting to go the Crimson’s way.
“The thing about field hockey is that you get it to the circle maybe fifty times, and one time you get a goal,” Goh said. “Staying positive is key, but it’s not necessarily that difficult as long as you put the work into it. A lot of it comes from communication and cheering on your teammates as they go.”
Staying positive might be more difficult following a deflating loss to a rival, but van Herwaarden stressed that the result won’t take his mind off of the bigger picture of strengthening the program.
“We’re just building, and it’s going to take time,” van Herwaarden said. “I don’t think we have too much time to focus on individual opponents. It’s more looking at us. We want to get better in the game that we are playing.”
—Staff writer Andrew R. Mooney can be reached at email@example.com.