Field hockey seeks to rebound after disappointing 0-4 start

by Henry Arndt | 9/16/14 5:45pm

Despite a slow start to the season, the field hockey team looks to build on early out-of-conference setbacks with a strong performance in its upcoming Ivy League opener.

After an 0-4 start, the Big Green plays Princeton University on Saturday, the last game before a three-match homestand. Princeton enters Saturday’s game with an identical 0-4 record.

“Because our preseason is a lot shorter, we have a disadvantage in the Ivy League, so we like to start our season by playing some top-ranked, non-league, non-conference teams,” captain Rebecca Hu ’15 said. “We’ll always take productive losses over non-challenging wins against weaker teams.”

After enjoying a 6-1 Ivy League record in the 2012-13 season, the women went 3-4 in the league last year. This year’s squad, captained by the senior trio of Hu, Ali Savage ’15 and Janine Leger ’15, faces the tall task of turning the program around, especially after dropping its season’s first four games. Thirteen games remain.

“One of our goals this season is to make every next opportunity better than the last,” Hu said. “Losing the first four games leaves a bad taste in your mouth, but hopefully we have the perspective to put those losses behind us, because we’ve developed some really good things as a team thus far, skills-wise.”

The Big Green started its 2014 campaign with a weekend in Evanston, Illinois, where the team faced 14th-ranked Northwestern University — the Big Ten co-champion — and 15th-ranked Louisville on back-to-back days.

Clare Detrick-Yee ’16 noted the team’s new composition this fall, with seven freshmen of 19 total players. Team members have gotten to know each other “quickly,” she said.

While the Big Green kicked off the season against the Wildcats, Northwestern had played four games before facing Dartmouth’s squad. And Northwestern got off to a hot start, leading 4-0 11 minutes into the game. Brooke Van Valkenburg ’16 got the Big Green into the game by scoring off a corner play, opening Dartmouth’s scoring for the season and marking the second time in three years that Van Valkenburg scored in the season opener.

Van Valkenburg’s goal did little to interrupt Northwestern’s blistering offensive pace. Junior Caroline Troncelliti responded by slotting her second and third goals of the game before 20 minutes for a first-half hat trick.

Hu scored the first goal of her career in the 26th minute of the game, but Northwestern would go on to win 9-3.

“I’ve been playing midfield my whole career, and I always think of myself as more of a passer,” Hu said. “But since I’ve been working so hard, it was great to see some results on the scoreboard.”

Squaring off against a talented Louisville squad the very next day, Dartmouth showcased some strong defensive play and held the Cardinals to two goals — the squad had scored 15 between its first two games, but the Big Green women could not muster any offensive production.

“We have an extremely young team with a lot of talent, but we just need to translate that talent into confidence on the field,” Leger said. “With that confidence, we’ll be able to hold off goals but the quick succession currently is because we lose confidence as a team and aren’t able to take care of details.”

Goalkeeper Ellen Meyer ’15 turned aside 13 shots, matching her career high. Louisville took control of the game in the second half, out-shooting Dartmouth 16-0. While the Big Green held the Cardinals to one second-half tally, the team spent too much time in their own half to challenge the Cardinals in theirs.

After two losses against ranked foes, the Big Green returned to Hanover to attempt to take its first win of the season over Pacific University, led by head coach Andy Smith, who spent several seasons under Dartmouth head coach Amy Fowler. The Tigers spoiled Dartmouth’s home opener.

Eliza Becker ’16 opened the scoring 17 minutes into the game with a redirect of Van Valkenburg’s shot. But the Tigers struck back less than 30 seconds after Becker’s tally and stole the first-half momentum. Pacific scored twice more in the next five minutes for a 3-1 lead.

“They attacked really strongly after that goal and came out firing, and we weren’t prepared,” Leger said.

Savage had her season scoring debut with a goal 24 minutes into the game, redirecting another Van Valkenburg shot. The goal put Savage at 95 career points — just three Big Green field hockey players have hit 100 tallies in a career.

“Ali brings a strong intensity to the field, and it’s awesome to build around as a team,” Leger said. “She’s got a great sense of reading the game and she wants the ball in the net and she’s willing to do anything to get it there.”

Dartmouth could not score again in the second half, and Pacific left Hanover with a 4-2 victory despite the even 14-14 shot count.

Both teams are “fast and physical,” Detrick-Yee said. “Even though we ended up coming out on the losing end, it was a really good learning experience.”

After its third consecutive loss, the Big Green squared off against Northeastern University, a team it had not beaten since October 1987.

Dartmouth was blanked 2-0, falling to the back-to-back goals of the Northeastern Dunn twins, Marisa and Kelly, who scored twice in a four-minute time span in the second half.

The Northeastern defense limited Dartmouth’s production on the day, holding them to three shots on goal in comparison to Northeastern’s 14.