Oh, so close, but yet so far.
Radcliffe's field hockey team dropped its second straight heartbreaker yesterday, a 1-0 loss at the hands of host Wellesley College. The tense debacle was marred by instances of inept officiating and a volatile group of hometown partisans.
Undefeated Wellesley was charged up for what they traditionally consider the premier game of their campaign, and it showed in their physical mode of play. But Radcliffe, which still had the bitter memory of Tuesday's 1-0 loss to Brown, offset the aggressive Wellesley tactics by opening up thier own attack.
Home-field advantages are prevalent even in the sport of field hockey, and Wellesley made the most of it. Accustomed to the soft thick turf of their confines, Wellesley compensated for the slowness in stick-handling. Meanwhile, the 'Cliffe had to adjust its attack to a "stop and send" one, and couldn't afford to carry the ball as much.
After making this initial adaptation, the 'Cliffe offense applied the pressure. Indeed, the visitors outshot the victors, 12-9, over the course of the contest. But Radcliffe missed a key scoring opportunity on what coach Debbi Field termed an "officiating flub."
Under the rules of the fast-paced sport, a goalie cannot sit on the ball at any time, without incurring a penalty flick against her squad. The Wellesley netminder almost hatched the sphere midway through the opening half, but no penalty call was made, despite the protestations of the Radcliffe crew.
After a scoreless first half, Wellesley left link Lisa Green scored what proved to be the game's only goal Green carried the ball into the attacking zone, passed off, then adroitly gathered in a return pass. It was clear sailing from there on in, Green besting Radcliffe goalie Carlene Rhodes.
Radcliffe has lost many close battles this year, and has garnered only a single victory. But the local stickhandlers may just be on their way to winning the way. "We're so far ahead of where we were last season," veteran Ann Depuis stated in a post-game interview.
"Debbi Field is the greatest thing to happen to field hockey at Radcliffe in a long, long, time," the sweeper continued. "It's a whole new scene. The team is being positively reinforced, we're receiving constructive criticism and top-notch advice," the junior added.
Frustration reigned supreme yesterday out at Wellesley. But critical fans must face up to the fact that the 'Cliffe is committed to a rebuilding program in the midst of playing high-powered opponents. The short-term results may be several 1-0 disappointments. But the long-range benefits of a cohesive and skillful unit will no doubt bring field-hockey back into the Harvard "winning tradition" fold.
Princeton comes to town tomorrow, in a 10:30 a.m. start at Soldiers Field. Junior stalwart Karen Lindsey believes that the Tigers will be the strongest team Radcliffe faces this year.