NEWTON--After the Harvard women's lacrosse team's surprising 7-6 loss to Vanderbilt yesterday, one might very well wonder what is up with this team. A better question would be what is down.
The answer to that is, of course, the scoring. Harvard wasn't scoring early in the season, isn't scoring now and, from the looks of things, won't be scoring a whole lot for the rest of the season. This team just doesn't light up the scoreboard.
(This was literally true at yesterday's game. Harvard rented Boston College's astroturf field to play Vanderbilt but apparently ordered the economy package, as the Alumni Stadium scoreboard was not turned on. It didn't really matter much, however, because one could count each team's score on separate hands for three-quarters of the game.)
The Crimson knows that it is a low-scoring team and that there isn't any big offensive gun to go to, and the team's strategy is set with this in mind. That's fine--many non-offensive teams can do very well. But Harvard's big problem can be said in one word: inconsistency.
The team's play so far this season has been like the springtime Boston weather--wait five minutes and it'll change. Like when Harvard fell behind lightly-regarded Boston College, UMass and Boston University before rallying to win; or when Harvard began its game with defending Ivy champion Princeton with a close, 3-2 game, but finished with an unclose, 11-2 game.
Yesterday was no different. The Crimson played poorly for most of the first half and turned it on for the second--but this time, it was not enough to pull out the comeback win.
There were other signs as well. As a whole, the defense (and especially co-captain goalie Shana Barghouti) played well. But although the defenders got excellent marks for most of the game, the valleys were really low.
Like right after Harvard tied the game at three early in the second half. Michelle Dillow got on an open fast break six minutes later and took a shot at the goal. Barghouti made the save but committed a foul on the play, giving Dillow a free position without any goaltender to worry about.
Needless to say, she scored.
Then fellow Commodore Kristin Ehst corralled the ensuing draw, ran down the length of the field practically undefended and scored. That's two giveaway goals.
Or one could look at the Crimson's transition game, which has ironically stayed at the same mediocre level all year. Yesterday Harvard had 26 turnovers, most of them coming in the transition, when someone would either drop a pass, throw an errant pass or just accidentally drop the ball out of her stick.
It's acceptable for a team to score as rarely as Harvard did yesterday, but not for it to have 26 turnovers in the process.
Maybe if the Crimson had a few more attackers that could average five or six goals a game--right now, there's only junior Honor MacNaughton, and she was double-teamed more than Michael Jordan would be if he was a Celtic--then perhaps Harvard could count on its offense to carry it on days like yesterday.
But that ain't going to happen. This team doesn't have enough firepower to erase the kind of mistakes that it made yesterday, especially when Harvard takes on the likes of Yale on Monday or No. 1 Maryland next Saturday.
It's easy to say that Harvard's lack of scoring was the reason for its loss, but it won't do any good. Yes, if Harvard scored more it would have won--duh--but this line of thought focuses on what the team can't fix, as opposed to what it can.