Marissa Balleza notched two goals and an assist in the win over Bryant Friday (photo: Gil Talbot)
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Senior Noel Painter scored Harvard field hockey's first goal of the season and sophomore Marissa Balleza netted two, leading the Crimson to a 3-2 victory in its season-opener over Bryant Friday evening at Jordan Field. Harvard has now won six of its last seven season debuts.
Harvard began the game with two early penalty corners with senior Caitlin Rea firing shots off each, but her first attempt was blocked, while Bryant goalkeeper Megan Hancock made a stop on the second attempt. The Bulldogs' first penalty corner nine minutes into the action led to the first tally of the contest, as Victoria Danby found the lower left corner with Mikayla Fitzmaurice and Erin Archer setting her up.
Bryant continued to keep the pressure on over the following four minutes, as Rosie Bird recorded three shots, missing the net twice and having a third turned away by Harvard stopper Issy Davies. The Crimson shifted the momentum to its offensive zone towards the midpoint of the first half and got on the board at the 21:12 mark. Painter carried the ball up the left side of the field, feeding Balleza just outside the Bryant goal, Hancock made a play to kick the ball away, but Painter was charging in and slammed home her first goal of the year.
The Crimson took the lead for the first time just under five minutes later, again using a smothering attack to find the back of the net. Freshman Ellie Cookson and senior Kaitlyn Boudah put Harvard in prime scoring position, carrying the ball to the front of the net and then found Balleza inside the top of the circle where she lifted the ball over the defense into the back of the goal.
Harvard carried its 2-1 lead until the 51st minute when Bryant struck back with the equalizer. Off a penalty corner, Erin Karcher found Fitzmaurice, who set up Rosie Bird for the goal with a tap pass at the top of the circle. The tie was short-lived though, as Balleza struck back with her second of the night 83 seconds later. In similar fashion to Bryant's goal, Painter fed Cookson off a penalty corner and a slight pass to Balleza set the sophomore up for a blast to the back of the cage.
The Bulldogs had one final scoring opportunity late in the second half, but Danby's attempt was stonewalled by Davies. The junior goalkeeper from Worcester, England, making the first start of her career, made two saves on the night.
Harvard will be back in action at Jordan Field on Sunday, Sept. 7, facing Holy Cross in a 1 p.m. contest. Fans can catch all the action free of charge HERE as part of the Ivy League Digital Network's free opening weekend package.