Field Hockey Blanks Outmatched Big Red

Joseph L. Abel

Senior midfielder Shelley Maasdorp, shown here in earlier action, scored her team-leading ninth goal of the season against Cornell.

After two straight losses to top-10 teams, facing Cornell at home was just what the ailing Harvard field hockey team needed.

Loser of four of its last six games, all of them against ranked opponents, Harvard (7-4, 3-0 Ivy) came out with a vengeance against the Big Red (2-7, 1-3) on Saturday at Jordan Field, looking to regain its confidence as well as remain perfect in Ivy League play.

Cornell was clearly unprepared for the sharpened attack of the Crimson.

Harvard, currently ranked No. 17 in the Division I coaches poll, extended its dominance over the Big Red with a 5-0 win, improving its all-time record against Cornell to 20-7-4. That impressive mark includes zero wins for Cornell while playing at Harvard.

This year’s edition of Cornell field hockey could do nothing to reverse that futile trend, overmatched by a more talented and cohesive Harvard squad.

“We came in thinking we really wanted to put a lot of goals on the board,” said senior Shelley Maasdorp, who scored her team-leading and career-high ninth goal of the season to put the Crimson up 1-0 in the first half. “We had to play at a top level to prove to ourselves that we really can, after the losses that we’ve had.”

Harvard struck early on, scoring only 6:43 into the first half on Maasdorp’s hard shot off a penalty corner, which was set up by captain Kate Gannon and junior Jen McDavitt. But despite keeping the ball in the Cornell zone for much of the half, amassing five penalty corners and 12 shots on goal in the process, the score remained only 1-0 heading into halftime.

The outcome, however, was not in doubt for long. With a little over one minute gone by in the second half, sophomore Gretchen Fuller stuffed home a loose ball in front of the net for her sixth goal of the year, putting offense-starved Cornell in a hole that they would find impossible to climb out of.

“We had something to prove today,” said Harvard coach Sue Caples. “[The win] was great for our confidence…We played a stronger second half today than we have in the last couple of matches.”

Harvard unleashed 15 shots at embattled Cornell goalkeeper Lori Blutinger in the second half. The barrage produced four scores and, in the process, allowed the team to vent some of the frustration that came from missing a shot to move up in the polls earlier in the week.

“We really got beat up on Wednesday night,” said Caples, referring to her team’s 3-0 loss to No. 10 Northeastern. “We needed to refocus on some of our basic fundamentals, both technically and tactically.”

The offensive barrage in the second half was a display of that focus. Harvard’s third goal came with 16:58 left in the game, on a picturesque cross from junior Beverlie Ting that was converted by junior Laura Werner. Late in the half, the Crimson scored again on a second-chance effort from junior Beth Sackovich, who scored after Blutinger had made the initial save. Less than a minute later, junior Jen McDavitt ended Cornell’s tough day with her third goal of the year.

“We’ve been up and down this season,” Caples said. “Against opponents that haven’t been successful, we haven’t played to our level—we’ve played down. This was a challenge.”

Harvard certainly was up to that challenge on Saturday, out-shooting Cornell by a startling 27-3 margin, while gaining 11 penalty corner chances to only three for the Big Red.

“We’re going into every Ivy game thinking that we’re going to win,” said Maasdorp. “We knew we could play like we did today, and we needed to do it.”