Leading 13-1 with 6:42 remaining in the second half, Harvard women's lacrosse goalie Sarah Leary bellowed from the net, "Come on Harvard, intensity."
And while about 100 Crimson faithful basked in the glorious afternoon sun at Ohiri field, Leary and her troops displayed an almost frightening intensity from start to finish, putting on a veritable lacrosse clinic en route to a 14-1 drubbing of Dartmouth.
The emphatic thrashing of the Big Green--Harvard's ninth straight win--gave the seniors a victory in their last home game, secured the Crimson's second consecutive Ivy League crown and all but ensured the team of receiving a bid to the NCAA tournament, to be held this year at Trenton State.
Harvard (11-2 overall, 6-0 Ivy) took immediate command of the contest, never allowing Dartmouth (5-8, 1-5) to establish any semblance of momentum. After midfielder Becky Gaffney won the opening draw, attacker Sarah Downing scooped up the ball, sprinted through several onlooking Big Green defenders and rifled a shot into the upper righthand corner of the net.
With less than fifteen ticks off the clock, the Crimson already held a lead that it would never relinquish.
The barrage of shots on hapless Dartmouth netminder Kim Cohen continued. Middie Liz Hansen burned two defenders to tally an unassisted goal and then watched as teammate Liz Berkery fed a waiting Tracy Hackeling, who stuffed home another score. Berkery then recorded a goal off of a freeposition shot. With 20:26 left in the half, the game was already a rout, and a silenced Dartmouth coaching staff could do nothing more than look on in dismay as its team was repeatedly victimized by the Crimson's sharp play.
"I think we played really well on top of the fact that their defense wasn't that good," Co-Captain Lila Rifaat said.
Big Green Coach Josle Harper would likely have echoed Rifaat's comments. Her defensive core simply did not have the speed nor the checks to counter the surging Harvard attack. And at the other end of the field, the Crimson defense once again sparkled, frustrating Dartmouth's slow-down style of offense and allowing it few quality shots.
"Their attack didn't challenge at all," Rifaat said. "They looked for passes instead of one-on-ones, and most of their passes were inaccurate. We were there to scoop up the ground balls."
Harvard's passing was anything but inaccurate. The Crimson moved the ball efficiently, eluding Big Green obstacles while consistently finding the back of the Dartmouth cage. Freshman Francie Walton and classmate Downing both tallied off of fast break opportunities while Gaffney and Hansen beat second-string goalie Lauren Anderson to boost Harvard's lead to 8-0 at intermission.
The onslaught continued in the second stanza with Downing again scoring off of the initial draw on the way to a hat trick for the day. Berkery then tallied her third goal when Hackeling reciprocated for the earlier assist with a pretty feed, setting up an anticipating Berkery with a virtual open-net shot.
Down 12-0, Dartmouth finally got on the board when leading scorer Judy Parish fired an overhand shovel shot, narrowly beating Leary. And though the junior goalie did lose her shutout, her performance on the afternoon was nothing short of amazing. On two occasions, Leary wowed the crowd with breathtaking saves.
The first was a diving block of a shot followed by another dive to save a rebound attempt. The second was a stuff off of a point-blank shot fired by Parish, who shook her head in disbelief as she watched the ball ricochet back onto the playing field. Even Andy Moog would have been impressed.
"The last save was typical of her play all year--clutch, steady and always coming up big when we need her to," Berkery said. "She's one of the best goalies in the country."
Harvard will need Leary's intense play as the team begins its quest for a second consecutive championship. In fact, it will need all of its weapons if it is to repeat last year's national championship season.
"I still think we need to work on offense, especially on our transitional attack," Coach Carole Kleinfelder said. "I'm feeling confident, though.
Goals: D--Jody Parish; H--Sarah Downing 3, Liz Berkery 3, Liz Hansen 2, Tracy Hackeling, Francie Walton, Kim Seidel, Ceci Kurzman, Jody Alissi, Becky Gaffney.
Assists: D--none; H--Berkery, Hackeling, Tenley Stephenson.
Saves: D--Kim Cohen 3, Lauren Anderson 6; H--Sarah Leary, 10.