Like a teenager hoping for a date to the senior prom, Harvard field hockey Coach Edie Mabrey will sit by the phone today, waiting for the invitation to the NCAA National Championships that she has worked four years to get.
At a 3. p.m team meeting, Mabrey will tell her squad whether Saturday's scoreless tie with visiting Yale was enough to keep the 11-2-3 Crimson from its first-ever NCAA tour nument berth.
Sixteen teams will get invitations to college field hockey's premier post-season competition. There will be one team from each of 10 regions. Six at-large selections will also receive tournament bids.
The University of Connecticut, which topped Harvard, 3-1, earlier this year, has a lock on the Northeastern slot, leaving the Crimson to battle for a wild-card berth.
Harvard's chances weren't helped any by Saturday's game. Despite dominating play and posting a season-high 24 penalty corners, the stick women couldn't coax ball across the Yale goal line.
"It was just a matter of getting the ball in the cage," senior Co-Captain Maureen Film said. "We had so many opportunities."
Paradoxically, Harvard's domination of the game contributed to the Crimson's failure to score. With each missed opportunity--and the stickwomen had more Saturday than in any previous contest--the determination to score, it became harder to concentrate on any-thing but the need to score.
"We started pressing," Co-Captain Kate Martin said.
The pressing made scoring impossible. Players started crowding each other and the ball, a problem Harvard had earlier in the year. Everyone wanted to help too much, and teamwork suffered.
"I didn't think we played well as a team," Finn said. "It was just a frustrating way to end our regular season."
Mabrey agreed, "If that's the end of our season," she said, "it's a yucky way to end it. I didn't think [the game] was pretty."
The game might have been more attractive for Harvard partisans if a first-half judgement call had gone the other way. At 26.33 of the first half the Crimson earned its third penalty corner in less than a minute, The ball came out to sophomore Andy Mainelli, who deflected it towards the goal. Yale goalie Nada Sellers came out to meet the shot, and when the ball slipped to the left of Sellers, Trina Burnham slapped it into the net for what appeared to be the game's first score.
But while Harvard celebrated, the umpires met for a lengthy discussion. When the conference was over, Yale had a 16-yard hit--field hockey's equivalent of soccer's goal kick--and the scoreboard showed a 0-0 tie.
Field hockey rules dictate that a penalty corner must be stopped before the ball crosses the goal line. Usually this rule is interpreted to mean that player must gain control of the ball at some time before a goal can be scored. The umpires ruled that no one had gained control of the ball, that what appeared to be the ice-breaking goal was just a series of deflections before the ball left the playing field.
The ruling didn't seem to dishearten the Crimson, as the stickwomen continued attacking the Eli goal. Six minutes after Harvard's first near-score, left wing Jennifer White broke through the Yale defense at midfield White broke through the ball at fall speed for her one-on-one with Bulldog Sellers, and only a brilliant dive by the Eli goalie just inside the penalty circle stopped White's bid to end the scoring deadlock.
Meanwhile, the Crimson defense easily thwarted all Yale's offensive efforts. Harvard shut out half its 16 regular-season opponents, and the Eli attack proved more a symbol of Yale's perseverance than a threat to grab the lead.
Despite the overwhelming number of scoring opportunities the Harvard offense generated, it could not perform as it had four days-earlier in the Crimson's 3-1 triumph over Springfield.
The stickwomen must hope that Springfield Coach Dottie Zenaty remembers Tuesday's Crimson rather than Saturday's when she and the rest of the NCAA selection committee meet to decide which teams will participate in this year's national championship.
THE NOTEBOOK: Mabrey, who has just finished her fourth regular season as Harvard head coah, sometimes refers to her players as "my kids."