The University of Massachusetts women's lacrosse team couldn't even blame it on the rain. And it rained very, very hard.
No, the answer for the Minutewomen was not to be found in the elements yesterday. The answer was right there, on a cold and wet Ohiri field. The rain probably seemed light in comparison.
The Harvard women's lacrosse team maintained its unblemished record (8-0 overall, 3-0 Ivy) and number-one national ranking in front of about 75 loyal fans with a convincing 16-4 victory over an outclassed, but feisty UMass squad.
Seemingly unfazed by the nasty conditions, the Crimson looked excellent against a Minutewomen team that has given them trouble in the past.
"UMass usually doesn't have a great record, but they're always tough. They're rougher than we are," senior Julie Clifford said. "But this is the last season that they're offering lacrosse, so they might not have gotten a lot of good younger players. They weren't as good."
The game was an important tuneup for the Crimson, which now heads south for the rugged part of its schedule with games against two undefeated teams, third-ranked Loyola and fourth-ranked Maryland. This is certainly no spring break.
"This is a big challenge, a big test for us," Clifford said. "Everyone always says that Harvard plays an easy schedule. Well, these are supposedly the better teams."
Loyola and Maryland are sure to mount more of an attack against the Crimson than did the hapless Minutewomen. The issue was never in doubt as Harvard quickly jumped out to a commanding 4-0 lead four minutes into the game.
Clifford welcomed UMass goalie Karen Pierce to Ohiri with an unassisted tally one minute into the game. Senior defender Lynn Frangione followed with a score before Clifford recorded her second unassisted goal of the day off the beleagured Pierce.
Senior midfielder Char Joslin then fired a shot past the Minutewomen netminder, and with about 20 minutes left in the half, the romp was on.
Harvard had little trouble with the UMass defense, employing crisp passes when needed and quick attacks that resulted in just as crisp and quick goals. The Minutewomen defense just couldn't seem to keep up.
"Last year, only a few of us were scoring, so it was a lot easier for teams to defend us," Clifford said. "This year, [opposing teams] can't concentrate on only one or two of us. Everyone's scoring."
The Crimson did a good job of showing off its balanced attack. Senior Jennifer Walser and classmates Joslin and Karen Everling also threaded the UMass defense for scores, and freshman Rachel Schultz closed out the first half onslaught with 1:55 remaining.
In the second half, the rain didn't stop. Neither did the Crimson attack.
Everling did most of the damage, tallying a remarkable total of five goals, three unassisted. While the Minutewomen defense was attempting to contain Joslin and Clifford, Everling was having a field day, taking passes from senior Joslin and Clifford for her two other scores.
The UMass defensive corps couldn't contain the omnipresent Joslin. The three-sport standout did her share, recording three second-half goals.
While the Crimson attack undoubtedly earned its praises, the defense was, as usual, very strong and consistent. Senior Maggie Vaughan and sophomore netminder Sarah Leary, who had 10 saves, held the Minutewomen attack to only four goals, including two penalty shots.
With its solid showing yesterday, the team seems ready for its trip south, where the playing conditions will hopefully be better.
Not that it matters.
Crimson, 16-4 at Ohiri Field UMass 2-2--4 HARVARD 8-8--16
Goals: UMass--Suzanne Murphy 3, Rachel Splaine; H--Karen Everling 6, Char Joslin 4, Julie Clifford 2, Lynn Frangione, Jenny Walser, Rachel Schultz, Elizabeth Hansen.
Assists: UMass--none; H--Clifford 2, Joslin.
Saves: UMass--Karen Pierce 15; H--Sarah Leary 10.