Harvard's field hockey team entered yesterday's contest against Holy Cross confidently. After all, the Crusaders were the victims of a 6-1 drubbing last year by the Crimson.
This year wasn't any different for the women of Worcester, who lost 4-1.
Besides a solid victory and some offensive fireworks, Harvard showed improvement in many areas which had hurt it previously against Northeastern.
"We've been working on our execution, passing sooner, getting our 16-yard hits out, and keeping things simple through quick combinations," Coach Sue Caples said of this week's practices.
"And today was a very strong performance, in which everyone was involved. It was an important rebound after Northeastern," she added.
It took Harvard a few minutes to regain its game tempo after a bit of a lay-off. The beginning of the first half was mainly spent at midfield, but Holy Cross, which mustered only four shots, never threatened Harvard's control.
"We started out with good ball possession. We weren't penetrating behind their 25-yard line, but our ball movement was quick and convincing," Caples said.
Senior Loren Ambinder finally broke through the Crusaders' defense near the end of the first half, pouncing on a rebound which rolled off the goalie's pads. Holy Cross tied the score about 10 minutes into the second half. Nora Tracey chipped a fluke goal into the net on a Crusader corner.
That goal only served to ignite the Crimson's offense which soon unleashed a 19 shot barrage on Holy Cross's netminder. Rachael Burke answered back for Harvard with an unassisted goal giving it a 2-1 lead.
"Our passing combinations were the best so far on turf. Transitions worked well from backs to midfielders and people started to go to goal," Amy Belisle said.
Holy Cross's hopes for victory were slim at this point, but when one of the Crusader defenders inadvertently shot the ball into her own net, the team's hopes were dashed. Ambinder received credit for the goal. A proven Crusader-slayer, Ambinder has scored two goals against the Crusaders in each of the past two seasons.
Harvard rounded out its scoring with a nice looking corner play, a little give and give and go from Ceci Clark to Kristen Fowler to Amy Belisle. Belisle fired a bullet past the goaltender, who had little time to react.
A solid back with a rifle shot, Belisle is developing into a vital weapon on penalty corners, helping to fill some of the void left by last year's Ivy League Player of Year Sandra Whyte.
Harvard's Lisa Yadao faced little pressure between the pipes, as the Crimson's midfielders and backs--led by Kristen Fowler--thwarted the Crusader's attacks.
"We controlled the midfield and shut them down defensively," said Caples. "It was a good match, a good test on turf."
Harvard will also play its next two games on the road, Thursday against the University of Connecticut and Saturday against Brown. Connecticut, 5-0 and ranked 10th nationally, will pose a tough challenge for the Crimson. Caples hopes to see a repeat performance of yesterday's game with a little faster execution.