Despite a slow start and a second half featuring several yellow cards and injuries, the Harvard field hockey team pulled off a victory in its season opener, defeating Holy Cross, 1-0, in front of sizeable crowd at Jordan Field on Saturday afternoon.
With under 10 minutes remaining in the contest, the Crusaders (0-2) pressured the Crimson defense, as Holy Cross forward Carly Grimaudo drove up the right side. Deking a few defenders and getting past Harvard goalie and co-captain Cynthia Tassopoulos, she faced an open net. But co-captain Kim Goh made a game-changing defensive save, turning the momentum in favor of the home team.
Less than two minutes later, sophomore Catriona McDonald converted a penalty-corner chance for the Crimson (1-0) by deflecting a pass from sophomore Caitlin Rea into the top right corner of the net.
One goal proved to be enough for Harvard, as Tassopoulos contributed four saves in net, giving Crimson coach Tjerk van Herwaarden his first victory at Harvard.
“This was a little bit more drama than we normally expect in a game, with a couple cards and injuries,” Goh said. “But I’m proud to see we came out with enough heart to win it.”
The victory made it five straight season-opening wins against the Crusaders and improved the Crimson’s all-time record on opening day to 26-11-2.
“I think we started really well,” van Herwaarden said. “We played like we meant to play. I think our technical plan was performed really well.”
In the second half, sophomores Kaitlyn Boudah, who also sang the national anthem before the game, and Noel Painter, last year’s leading goalscorer for Harvard, were both assessed yellow cards, and Rea, among others, suffered an injury.
“With some injuries and people going off the field, it was very difficult to find organization,” van Herwaarden said. “But with everything that happened in the game, the injuries, the cards, to take the win—I think it’s a step in the right direction.”
The first half proved fairly uneventful, as Holy Cross outshot Harvard, 3-2, and tallied four penalty corners to the Crimson’s two. Tassopoulos made a diving save shortly before the half expired, keeping the visitors from taking the lead before the break.
“Today, as a goalkeeper and as a captain, [Tassopoulos] led by example and made sure this team could cheer even after just one goal,” van Herwaarden said.
Harvard's pressure increased early in the second half as the offense pushed more through the Crusaders' zone.
Eleven minutes into the frame, Rea fired a low, hard shot from center toward the left side of the net, but Holy Cross goalie Kat Matchett came up with the diving save. Sophomore Sydney Jenkins also had a scoring opportunity two minutes later, but her shot rolled wide of the net.
The Crusaders regrouped after a timeout, containing the Crimson offense until Goh’s dramatic defensive save, which proved to be a turning point.
“We had a lot of opportunities,” Goh said. “And from opportunities, one will go in, and that’s all it takes. We got the one, and hopefully we’ll have a little bit more of a buffer in future games.”
A packed Jordan Field contributed to a home-field advantage for Harvard as well, with many new freshmen in attendance for one of the first athletic contests of the fall season.
“The crowd helped a lot just getting momentum,” Goh said. “You can sort of feel not just on the field but off the field, everyone’s pushing you forward. And all of sudden the ball’s in the net; that’s sort of the way things work. You ride the wave."
Van Herwaarden believes this a step in the right direction as the Crimson looks to build its momentum before entering Ivy League play in couple weeks.
“We have had some changes in the last couple of weeks, and this is a step in our progress,” he said. “We have practice tomorrow and Sacred Heart on Monday, so we have to make sure we are able to push through a little bit quicker and make sure we can keep playing with organization [to] win the next game.”
—Staff writer David Mazza can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.