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The Harvard field hockey team continued its strong start to the season, claiming its first Ivy League win against rival Yale at home on Saturday. The Crimson now boasts a 5-0 record, the team’s best since 1976.
Harvard (5-0, 1-0 Ivy) dispatched Yale (1-4, 0-1 Ivy) by a score of 4-1 in its Ivy League opener, an achievement Harvard coach Tjerk van Herwaarden attributed to hard work, better coordination, and an optimal balance between attack and defense.
“I think we are really connecting well,” van Herwaarden said. “I think the team has done a tremendous amount of work in the offseason, which allowed us to play the game that we want to play.”
Despite the Bulldogs’ aggressive play to start the game, Harvard remained in control for the majority of the contest, gaining a 10-1 shot advantage in the first half and finishing the game with a 19-5 margin.
“It was pretty good in terms of the score,” co-captain Catriona McDonald said. “But we are actually, despite the score, a little bit disappointed in the way we played because that was not actually as good as we hoped to play today…. We had about 19 shots, converting only 4 of those, and we had a lot of corners as well, so it was a little disappointing.”
McDonald scored the first goal for the Crimson at 17:08, her first tally of the season. The goal was assisted by junior Elizabeth Jacobson, who sent a pass from the end line directly in front of the goal, where a waiting McDonald easily slapped the ball into the back of the net.
“We have not been 5-0 in a very long time,” McDonald said. “We are hoping to keep up the trend at this phase.”
Harvard had another opportunity just before the intermission when the Yale goalie, Heather Schlesier, lost track of a rebound; however, Crimson senior Noel Painter’s shot from the right bounced off the post.
Schlesier had a number of excellent saves in the rest of the game, but the Crimson remained relentless.
Sophomore Marissa Balleza took advantage of a penalty corner by teammate Sarah Finnemore in the 9th minute of the second period, doubling Harvard’s lead. The goal was assisted by freshman Ellie Cookson, whose assists helped the Crimson take down Maine last week.
Yale midfielder Kelsey Nolan closed the gap for the Bulldogs in the 54th minute, scoring unassisted from the inside of the far post.
“We needed to stay in it. One thing in field hockey is that it is very easy for [your opponent] to get a goal and get back in a game,” van Herwaarden said. “Field hockey now goes really quickly, really fast, and we needed to stay in control.”
The Crimson stayed aggressive, scoring again seven minutes after the Yale goal when Cookson collected another assist, sending an end line pass to senior forward Kaitlyn Boudah, who tallied her second score of the season.
Jacobson added the final touch to Harvard’s victory, posting her first goal of the season in the 67th minute.
Although only 11 players are playing on the field at each given time, van Herwaarden said that all 22 players on the Harvard field hockey team have contributed to the team’s success.
“We can find each other more easily this year,” van Herwaarden said. “We have more competitive spirit. There are 22 athletes competing for every practice, which raises for us the bar every single week, or maybe even every single day, and eventually helps us to prepare for the games.”
After a disappointing 2013 campaign, the Crimson hopes to keep the momentum from its undefeated start going.
“It is a really exciting time for the team because we have had a lot of transition in the past few years, coaching changes, a lot of things that we had to get through,” McDonald said. “Now it is kind of all coming together…after all the time we put in.”
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