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Sarah Mleczko caught fire yesterday while wading through the swamplands of Soldiers Field.
The powerful forward and last season's team scoring leader tallied three scores and propelled the Harvard women's field hockey team to a 3-1 win over Wheaton in yesterday's season opener.
The ever-flowing rain of the past two weeks may have reduced Soldiers Field to a marshy bog, but it did not dampen Mleczko or the Crimson women. In a hard-hitting battle highlighted by Harvard's superb ball control, the women displayed much of the skill that earned them a 12-1-1 record for '76.
Harvard took the initial face-off, and right from the start kept the pressure on Wheaton goalie Mary Ann Marsh. With Mary Howard working the right wing and Mleczko prowling the middle, the Harvard attack registered 18 shots on goal in the first half, while Wheaton only had four.
Mleczko and Howard ganged up on the Wheaton defense, and the attacking combo led the way for the Harvard offense. After 9:30 of the first half, the Mleczko-Howard tandem finally connected, as Howard centered to Mleczko who--while still lying on the ground--poked the ball into the Wheaties' net.
With the Harvard attack controlling the game, and Stephie Baum and Tania Huber playing fine defense along the right sidelines, Crimson goalie Ellen Seidler got a chance to do some cheerleading for most of the afternoon.
But after making her first and only save of the first half, Seidler was caught short on the rebound. Wheaton's Holly Arm-strong knocked the ball past her and into the Harvard net to tie the score at 1-1 with 12:35 gone.
The front line of Gwill York, Mleczko, Howard and Jenny Stone would have broken the game wide open in the rest of the first half if it were not for Marsh's marvelous goaltending. She and the Wheatie defense turned back several Crimson charges, although Wheaton failed to mount an offense of its own.
For almost 20 minutes of half two, the Harvard attack was plagued by "almosts." Crystal Terry, who replaced Stone on the left side, worked well with Mleczko and York, but the Crimson women could not find the net.
Finally, Mleczko broke through, sending a whistling shot into the right corner of the Wheaton net with 19:25 gone in the second half.
Just three minutes later, Mleczko connected again--this time off a centering pass from left-winger York--as the Crimson women assured themselves of a winning start for the new season.
"Sarah and Mary used each other very effectively," said Harvard Coach Debi Field. "The attack has more punch than last year," she added.
Field explained that her "more potent attack" was largely due to the addition of Howard to the offense. Last year, Howard played right back on defense, but the coach shifted her to the offensive wing for 1977.
"It was rough game, but we showed a lot of strengths, and we got a chance to work out our defense," Lucy Wood, the team captain and left link, said after the game. "I'm looking forward to a great season," she added.
The women will face Tufts Thursday at 3 p.m. on Soldiers Field.
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