Aiming a Loaded Gun at an Elusive Target: A First Ivy Title
Have gun, will travel. But how far?
If last year is any indication, not far enough.
Two years ago, the Harvard field hockey team scored a total of 10 goals in 15 games. Three players shared the team scoring lead with a pair of goals apiece.
Harvard finished with a 3-8-4 overall mark, and tied for second in the Ivy League with a 2-2-2 record.
"Hmm," mused Harvard Coach Nita Lamborghini, "we need some offense."
Lamborghini and her assistants went out and recruited some offense in the form of Sharon Landau, a plucky forward who last year popped home eight goals and added an assist.
Suddenly, the Crimson had offense. Lots of it.
The result? Same overall record, and a poorer Ivy slate (1-2-3).
A big gun failed to prevent another Crimson bust. But this year, expect something new--a winning Ivy record, and perhaps a first league title.
Two years ago, the defense played spectacularly. Last year, the offense shined. This year both units should be ready to play steady, if not spectacular, hockey. They must if Harvard intends to overthrow two-time defending Ivy champion Pennsylvania
Harvard is led by Tri-Captains Cindi Ersek, Kate Felsen and Jane Grim and junior goalie Denise Katsias. Ersek (three goals and one assist for four points) and Felsen (2-2--4) finished tied for second behind Landau in team scoring. Grim helped bolster the inconsistent defense.
Katsias, despite being blown out in midseason by Penn, 4-0, and Princeton, 3-0, finsished with 175 saves (31 more than in her first season--an indication of how far the defense in front of her has slipped) and a 1.44 goals-against average. She recorded a single shutout last year, a 0-0 affair against Cornell, to push her career shutout total to five.
Katsias will get help this year from senior sweeper Leelee Groome, who possesses the longest ground ball in the league and is famous for her aggressive game. Lookout for Leelee.
The Crimson also showcases three-sport phenomenon Char Joslin, who moonlights as a Harvard midfielder during the ice hockey and lacrosse off-seasons. Last year, Joslin came on strong at the end of the season--as freshmen sometimes do--and recorded a goal and three assists. She finished second in the Ivy League Rookie of the Year balloting behind Yale goalie Sue Sabatino and earned second team All-Ivy honors.
"She could be the best player in the league," said a seasoned observer of Harvard field hockey, who added, "We'll have a good offense with Ersek and Landau. The defense is questionalble, but with Katsias it should be all right."
The Crimson is now in Holland, a journey the squad earned by selling M&Ms last year. After returning on September 17, the team must gear up for a tough, 15-game schedule.
Like last year, Harvard's first Ivy contest is against Penn. Unlike last year, the game will be played in Cambridge.
"Our record is indicative of our leadership in the league," Penn Coach Anne Sage said. "You have to set high goals. To repeat as three-time champion would be nice. We're capable of winning a third."
Sage noted that Penn's JV program was strong last year, and will feed a number of players into the varsity ranks this season.
"We have the same potential as last year," Sage said. "Other teams will be after us. Being two-time champion adds another dimension to the way opponents deal with us."
And how does she view her team's chances against Harvard?
"Harvard plays a tough game of hockey," she said. "It's very difficult to win at Harvard."
Last year, Cornell joined Harvard in the bottom half of the league standings. But this year, the Big Red should be a big threat.
"We have a lot of offensive players remaining from last year," Cornell Assistant Coach Karla Griffin said. "In that respect, I think we'll be a lot stronger. I don't think people can count Cornell out this year. I think we will finish as one of the top two or three teams."