The Harvard field hockey team opened its season with a loss against Holy Cross but bounced back later in the weekend with a strong win against Bryant.
On Friday the visiting Crimson (1-1) received unexpected resistance from the Crusaders (2-2), who defeated the Crimson for only the second time in the programs’ 17 all-time meetings. Three days later, led by a hat trick from junior forward Marissa Balleza, the Crimson recovered with a 5-2 victory over the Bulldogs (1-4) at Jordan Field.
HARVARD 5, BRYANT 2
Balleza scored the first three goals of Harvard’s home opener to record her second career hat trick. The junior forward’s outburst proved to be the difference in an offensively uneven contest, as a one-goal first half gave way to a six-goal second frame.
After an early wide shot three minutes in, Balleza first beat Bryant goaltender Marissa Elizardo at 5:16 in the first half. The junior forward followed the strike with two goals less than three minutes apart after the break, at 37:15 and 40:13.
Senior defender Elizabeth Jacobson assisted on all three of Balleza’s strikes before Victoria Danby put Bryant on the board at 49:55, yet sophomore Harvard midfielder Ellie Cookson responded, threading an unassisted backhand shot through Elizardo’s five-hole at 57:55.
After a goal by Bronwyn Walker again drew Bryant within two at 63:04, freshman forward Kathleen Young consolidated the Crimson’s win less than a minute later with her first career collegiate goal.
Harvard’s first victory of 2015 was physical throughout. A total of 41 fouls were committed during the game, 17 of which were Bryant fouls.
“I think Bryant is a very physical team,” said junior defender Sophie van Weede. “I still felt like we kept our composure and tried to defend as cleanly as we possibly could.”
HOLY CROSS 2, HARVARD 1
In a low scoring affair, the Crusaders secured a two-goal lead early in the second half before holding off a late Crimson surge. After attempting only one shot in the first half, Harvard put seven toward the net in the second yet broke through only once.
The offense on both sides was slow to develop on Friday, with the first shot coming nearly a quarter of the way through the game. The Crusaders’ Michelle McNeil collected a rebound off of senior goalkeeper Issy Davies and found the back of the net at 16:55.
The second half began with two shots by Young, who forced Holy Cross goaltender Megan Inch to make her first save of the game. The Crusaders proceeded to work down the field and earn a corner kick, on which sophomore forward Maureen Connolly capitalized with a successful deflection at 42:36.
Balleza broke through on the Crimson’s fifth shot of the half with just under 10 minutes remaining, yet the visitors could not find the equalizer in time. Inch turned away an attempt by Jacobson at 62:42, and the hosts held the advantage in possession over the game’s final seven minutes.
“Our team has great passing patterns when we really connect and we attack the circle really well but there were lapses in our communication and our focus,” sophomore midfielder Hannah Wellington said. “We saw the passes, but someone would mess up a trap and that slowed down our momentum and made it more difficult than [the game] had to be.”
Under the direction of a new head coach and with three games already under their belt, the Crusaders defended their cage with confidence on Friday. The Crimson, meanwhile, contended with opening-day nerves.
“Part of it was first-game jitters,” said van Weede. “The first game is always tricky, everyone needs to get used to the freshmen, the communication…. I think we were definitely better, but we didn’t come out with what we wanted.”
—Staff writer Amanda X. Fang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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