Like the Bordeaux that tastes fresh on the palate, but that fades and leaves a slightly acrid aftertaste, the 1982 Harvard women's lacrosse team may merely have needed a little more time.
After losing five starters following the 1981 season, the laxwomen turned out to be a surprising blend of talented yardlings and seasoned veterans, who transformed this campaign from a rebuilding season into one that included a 12-6 regular season record, an Eastern Championship, one-half of an Ivy title and a seventh place finish at the Nationals.
Despite these accomplishments, however, one is still left with the feeling of a job only partially done.
After an early season loss to William and Mary, the Crimson showed its mettle during Spring, break--tearing up the city of Brotherly Love with sisterly savagery and compiling a 4-1 record against five of the toughest teams in the country.
"We played with a lot of intensity, a lot of hustle and a lot of desire in Philly," Coach Carole Kleinfelder said yesterday. "We seemed to play well away from Harvard. We'd practice: then we'd play. We gained a lot of confidence, and we were in mental and physical condition to play."
But as the season progressed, Harvard lost much of this mental and physical acuity. Its physical toughness suffered from schizophrenic weather that dumped a carpet of snow on Soldier's Field in the middle of April, forcing the laxwomen into the confines of Bright Hockey Center, Briggs Cage, and even the aquatic world of IAB.
All New England teams fell prey to the weather, however, and as the snow melted the confidence of Spring Break slowly slipped away and the team's mental sharpness faded into a psychological blur.
Losses to Yale (which precipitated Harvard's sharing of the Ivy title with Penn), UMass and UNH, surprisingly enough, turned up amid wins against both Yale and UNH in the Easterns. The team's intensity seemed to rise and fall with the regularity of the Dow Jones index. As one player said, until the game started you would never know whether the team had come to play or not.
The defense that earlier had played so confidently would now take three opposing goals before it showed signs of life. Time after time, though, the Crimson fought its way back into the game. Rookie mistakes became more and more costly, but at the same time Alicia Carillo, Jennifer Greeley, Katie Martin, Lisa Black, and Maggie Hart came into their own.
Yet as the season wound down, even these ambiguities disintegrated in the face of stiffer competition. The 15 goals scored by Penn State were the most by a Crimson opponent in three years. Harvard then proceeded to give up 13 goals in the first round of the Nationals, losing to the Owls of Temple and dashing all hopes of bettering last year's fourth place finish.
While some of this breakdown can be attributed to the team's youth. Kleinfelder seems at least partly responsible for failing to halt the team's mental slippage. Confronted with a controversy surrounding her dismissal as basketball coach in the middle of lacrosse season, Kleinfelder may have lost some of the intensity with which she has led the program over the last three years.
"It made practice difficult," Kleinfelder recalled. "I don't feel any extra pressure to win, but my concentration was not on, and I think that shortchanged the team."
As for next year, while the Crimson will only lose three starters to graduation, it may lose a talented and dedicated couch capable of leading Harvard to the one goal that still stands resolute--a National championship.
Kleinfelder said a decision on her future will probably be rendered in the next couple of weeks, but declined comment on what that decision would be.
In any event, the women's lacrosse team can still he optimistic, as Jeannie Piersak and Francesca Den Hartog--two players who Kleinfelder said don't have second best in their vocabularies"--will co-captain a team that should come back stronger than ever. For the Laxwomen, 1983 should be a very good year.
THE NOTEBOOK Fran Den Hartog was named Ivy Player of the year for the second year in arrow, and along with Maureen Finn and Jeannie Piersak, was named to the All-Ivy first team. Freshmen Ellen Velie and Jennifer Greeley were named to the second team, while Anne MacMillan and Jennifer White were accorded honorable mention status.