Yesterday at Ohiri Field, the Harvard women's lacrosse team welcomed back a Rutgers squad that nearly dropped its program last year. And after the Crimson delivered an unfriendly 16-0 drubbing, the Scarlet Knights may want to reconsider their decision.
It was an expected, but much needed victory for the Crimson (3-2 overall, 2-0 Ivy Ivy league), who only a day before had dropped a heartbreaking 8-7 decision to a a physical UNH team.
"Today's game was a good confidence booster," said junior tri--captain Ceci Clark. "It gave us a chance to run through some things."
Those "things" were namely Scarlet Knight defenders, who spent much of the afternoon at the mercy of the Crimson's revamped transition game and offense. Sophomore attacker Liz Berkery continued her scoring spree with three goals and the rest of the Crimson did its share of damage, battering the Rutgers goal until the final buzzer.
"They let us get into our rhythm today," junior midfielder Tracy Hackeling said. "We were able to work on our weak spots and score some goals."
While junior goalie Sarah Leary was recording her first shutout of the season, her Crimson teammates were having little trouble tallying goals. Nine Harvard players in all found the back of the net. Senior attacker Tenley Stephenson had two goals and an assist, and freshman linemate Jo Ann Alissi had three scores and two assists. Senior tri-captain Ceci Kurzman also netted a hat trick.
"We worked more on our transition game out there today," Kurzman said. "We were not panicked or intimidated."
Saturday, however, a hustling, physical UNH squad did intimidate the Crimson, unsettling a Harvard team that was unable to control the ball and the tempo of the game.
The Crimson didn't have such an easy time Saturday against New Hampshire. The Wildcats (3-1 overall) were able to avenge last year's defeat against a less experienced Crimson team. And while many of the Crimson freshman have performed admirably, the team still needs some more games under its belt.
"There's a big jump from high school to college," Clark said. "It hurts that there's inexperience, but they [the freshman] have filled in well."
The Crimson took an early 1--0 lead against a game UNH team when the ball deflected off of a Wildcat defender and trickled into the net. Five minutes later UNH led, 3--1, on the strength of goals from senior midfielders Liz Brickley and Alita Haytayan. Clark brought the Crimson back to within one before Brickley and Haytayan again netted back-to-back back tallies to boost the UNH lead to 5--2.
The Crimson finished the first half with a flourish thanks to a fired-up Berkery. Berkery scored twice and fed junior midfielder Becky Gaffney to knot the score at halftime.
Harvard was unable to continue its dominance in the second half and was down by two goals with 40 seconds remaining before freshman middie Sarah Downing scored on a penalty shot. UNH won the ensuing faceoff, however, and was able to hold off the Crimson.
"We were up for the game, but we didn't use the right strategy," Hackeling said. "They are a very strong and athletic team, and we let them run us over. We needed to settle down."
While the Crimson proved that they can play with the best, they will need to sharpen their game for Wednesday's clash at Ohiri field against a Yale team that has already defeated UNH this season.