Field Hockey | Panthers pounce early to defeat Jumbos in season opener
Published: Monday, September 10, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 10, 2012 06:09
As the No. 14 field hockey team traveled to Middlebury on Saturday, it hoped to erase the memory of a tough penalty-stroke loss to the Panthers on opening day last season. But instead of reversing last year’s result with an emphatic victory, the Jumbos fell to the third-ranked Panthers in a 5-2 rout – a far cry from the close-fought battle of their 2011 opener.
The Jumbos started several new players, including freshman midfielder Dakota Sikes-Keilp, and the team’s youth, combined with the loss of two-time All-American defender Taylor Dyer (LA ’12), was evident early. The Panthers jumped out to a quick start on their home turf, and even a spirited two-goal performance from junior forward Chelsea Yogerst was not enough to pull the Jumbos within striking distance.
It took Middlebury less than a minute to find the back of the net. 59 seconds in, junior midfielder Elinore O’Brien connected with freshman Anna Kenyon, who finished her first collegiate goal to give the Panthers the early advantage.
Then, seven minutes later, Middlebury doubled its lead with a knock from junior forward Katherine Theiss, who polished off a pass from senior tri-captain Lauren Greer.
The Jumbos seemed to settle down after Theiss’ goal, and the game quickly turned into a slog, with both teams failing to capitalize on opportunities despite knowing that the next goal would be critical.
But after ten minutes of scoreless play, the Panthers came away with the sought-after third goal. Greer beat out junior goalkeeper Katie Stuntz with a high shot to give the Panthers a 3-0 advantage in the 20th minute of play.
Tufts had opportunities to close in on Middlebury’s lead before the half, but the Jumbos were unable to cash in on several looks and entered the intermission trailing their hosts by a steep three-goal margin.
“We were definitely disappointed by the result at halftime, but we knew we had to come out even stronger,” Yogerst said. “We focused on making adjustments rather than being defeated. We wanted to come out more fired up but play with composure.”
Although the Jumbos hoped to jump out of the break with fresh momentum, the Panthers began the final period of play much the same way they did the first. Greer tallied her second goal of the game two minutes in to extend the Panthers’ 4-0 lead.
Then, Yogerst had a chance to answer for the Jumbos, but just as she approached a one-on-one opportunity near the cage, Middlebury’s defense swept the ball away from her stick and out of danger to momentarily preserve the lead.
After Theiss swept home a deflected pass, the Panthers began to pull their starting players and tried to simply preserve their ample 5-0 lead. The Jumbos continued to push, however, and saw an opportunity at the 53-minute mark quickly squashed by Middlebury senior goalie Madeline Brooks.
“Midd. was able to come out and get on the board really early,” senior co-captain Lia Sagerman said. “I think our team was a bit taken aback and we were having difficulty adjusting quickly to their play. We couldn’t seem to find a rhythm … which Middlebury took advantage of. That also thwarted any real offensive threats from our end.”
In the 65th minute, however, the Jumbos’ persistence paid off, when Yogerst took a pass from senior co-captain Rachel Gerhardt to the rack.
“Middlebury capitalized on all of their opportunities offensively and came out at a very fast pace,” Yogerst said. “It was frustrating that so many of our opportunities were shut down but we adjusted our playing and eventually began to break through.”
The tide of the game had begun to turn, and fewer than two minutes later, Gerhardt and Yogerst connected again, this time on a penalty corner, to pull the Jumbos within three of the Panthers.
“Our passes began to connect towards the end of the game and our intensity greatly increased as a unit,” Yogerst said. “We began breaking down their defense with our speed and stick-to-stick passing, and started capitalizing on every opportunity that we had down the field, including taking on other players on their team one on one.”
In the end, time ran out for the Jumbos, but they showed spark and grittiness in their refusal to accept a shutout. In the loss, Stuntz posted seven saves in her second career start, and Yogerst proved herself a hardened veteran in spite of an adverse five-goal deficit late in the game.
“We now know what we are capable of as a team and we’ve determined areas across the field that we can continue to improve and develop,” Yogerst said. “That game demonstrated that we continue to fight for all 70 minutes and that we try our hardest until the last whistle blows. It wasn’t the result we hoped for, but we now know what changes need to be made in order to move forward in our season.”
The Jumbos, who travel to Babson on Tuesday evening, fell to 0-1 in the conference, and will have to wait until next Saturday’s trip to Wesleyan to even out their NESCAC record.
“We are remaining positive in knowing the potential and talent we possess,” Yogerst said. “We need to trust that we are capable of a much higher level of field hockey because I know we have it in us.”