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The Harvard field hockey team's season opener yesterday against the University of Rhode Island was like one of Cleveland Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar's passes--not very pretty, but it got the job done.
After a flustered first half at Cumnock Field which saw the Rams grab a 1-0 lead, the Crimson pulled together to come back and win its season opener, 2-1, on a game-winning goal by junior Sandra Whyte with 13 minutes remaining in the contest. Rachel Burke also tallied for the hometown squad.
"This was a good start for us," Harvard Coach Sue Caples said. "Instead of playing against each other, we started to move the ball well and think."
The first half of play was dominated by an aggressive URI offense that kept constant pressure on Harvard's young backfield. The Rams fired 11 shots on goal and had seven penalty corners, most early in the half.
"When we started out we were really nervous," Burke said. "We weren't settled down, and we were trying to do things too fast."
Despite the pressure and first-game jitters, however, the Crimson defense and junior goalie Lisa Yadao yielded only once, with URI's Cindy Lee tallying with 20 minutes remaining in the first half.
Harvard was not without its offensive chances, either. The Crimson had six consecutive penalty corners in the final two minutes of the half, but were denied by URI goalie Suzanne Antonellis and a swarming defense.
"Execution and timing was a problem," Caples said. "We're working on some options [for corners]. We can't afford to give up that many corners."
After the half, the Crimson settled down and played with more aggressiveness and confidence. Junior Loren Ambinder kept consistent pressure on the ball in the midfield, to help an overworked defense.
Junior Co-Captain Ceci Clark played solidly on defense, teaming with classmate Whyte to smooth out Harvard's transition game. Whyte's speed and precise stickwork resulted in a key penalty corner that led to the game-winning penalty flick, a shot that deflected off the goalie's mitt into the left corner of the goal.
It was a good start to what promises to be a difficult transition year from last season. This season's main problem for the Crimson is replacing several key players lost to graduation, including Ivy League Player of the Year Char Joslin, First Team All-Ivy Erin O'Brien and Lisa Cutone.
"We lost a lot of good players but even so, we're definitely not in a bad position," Burke said.
"We have some great atheletes on this team," Caples said. "We have a nucleus of returning players in the middle, and we're very steady with both of our goalies. The freshmen have also provided us with a depth of options. Consistency is the only difference between us and other teams."
THE NOTEBOOK: Harvard plays its second game of the season against Northeastern Wednesday at 3:00 p.m. on Cumnock Field.
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