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Freshman forward Bente van Vlijmen had a stellar weekend for the field hockey squad, scoring three of Harvard’s five goals to lead the group over Yale by a 2-0 score and No. 19 Maine by a 3-1 count.
Bente’s strong play against the Bulldogs (4-4, 0-1 Ivy) and the Black Bears (7-3) came as no surprise to her coach.
“Bente is a fantastic field hockey player,” Crimson coach Tjerk van Herwaarden said. “She’s from the Netherlands, where people get a stick put in their hands when they’re three years old, so she has those skills.... The goal today and the goal on Friday show her quality.”
If van Vlijmen was experiencing freshman jitters, she certainly did not show it in the weekend opener at home against Yale. The forward made her mark just seconds into Crimson’s first Ivy League contest of the year. Sophomore forward Kathleen Young intercepted an errant Bulldog pass and relayed the ball onto van Vlijmen.
With the composure of a seasoned veteran, the freshman forward dodged and weaved past two Yale defenders in the circle. Staring down the Bulldog goalkeeper, van Vlijmen did not hesitate and scored with a backhand shot to put the Harvard up, 1-0.
After the fast start, the Crimson dominated, maintaining possession and testing Yale senior goalkeeper Emilie Katz often. Yet with less than 10 minutes to go in the half Harvard had failed to capitalize on any more of their chances.
“We had a great start with a goal in 31 seconds, and then it became a typical Ivy League game,” van Herwaarden said. “Balls can be fought for, and it’s going to be a matter of who works the best and who wants to put in the most work.”
The Crimson continued to grind and generate opportunities. In the 26th minute on the team’s fourth penalty corner of the game van Vlijmen came up big again. Senior midfielder Kyla Cordey passed up the ball to junior midfielder Ellie Cookson, who stopped it at the top of the circle for van Vlijmen to strike. The forward blasted the ball off Katz and into the cage for her second score.
“I just did my thing,” van Vlijmen said. “But it’s amazing to score two goals in your first Ivy League game as a freshman…. I couldn’t believe it.”
Harvard had a quick turnaround in play, facing regional powerhouse Maine less than 48 hours after the Yale game. The Crimson didn’t show any signs of weariness, however, jumping out to a 2-0 lead, following goals from freshman forward Maddie Earl in the 19th minute and senior forward Marissa Balleza in the 38th minute.
After such a dominant showing against Yale, it would have been easy for van Vlijmen and the rest of the Crimson team to take their foot off the offensive gas pedal. The group did just the opposite, and van Vlijmen delivered another goal in the 43rd minute for Harvard’s third and final goal of the day.
The play was strikingly similar to her second goal of the Yale game. Off a penalty corner, Cordery delivered to Cookson, who settled it at the top of the circle. Again, the freshman forward unleashed on the ball with smooth swing. This time it went un-touched, flying into the cage past Maine junior goalkeeper Emma Cochran.
Van Vlijmen has started in six of eight games this year and is already ranked second amongst a talented Crimson squad with six points on the year. Her performance has earned her the high praise from her teammates early in the season.
“She’s awesome. She’s dynamite,” Balleza said. “Especially on the forward line, she has an unreal shot...it’s fun to play with her.”
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