NEWTON--The Harvard women's lacrosse team came out slowly yesterday in its match against Vanderbilt at Boston College and never got back on track.
The Crimson fell behind to the Commodores, 3-0, and never found the lead, dropping its third straight game, 7-6.
Harvard (3-3, 0-2 Ivy) clearly was not fully prepared to dominate the game from the start, and allowed a less-skilled Vanderbilt team (6-5) to set the tempo for the rest of the game.
"That start wasn't really a surprise," Harvard coach Carole Kleinfelder said. "We've been [practicing] inside since Sunday and weren't ready to go."
Freshman midfielder Rebecca Brown agreed with Kleinfelder's assessment of the game. "[The start's] definitely a crucial part. One of our weaknesses as a team is offensive and defensive intensity at the onset of a game. That sets the pace of the entire game."
At the start, the pace was set with sloppy play on both sides, with neither team willing to take control of the game. Both teams remained scoreless for most of the first half until Vanderbilt's Kristin Ehst scored the first of her two goals at 14:45, starting a three-goal barrage by the Commodores.
Down 3-O, Harvard needed its offense to help the team climb out of the hole, but the attackers faltered and sputtered, unable to convert any of their opportunities into goals. The passes were not crisp and no one hit the cutters to the net. As a result, the Crimson struggled to maintain sustained pressure on the Vanderbilt defense.
"We worked hard, but we weren't smart," Kleinfelder said. "We gave [the ball] up too easily."
Harvard got back in the game with two late first-half goals by seniors Liz Hren and co-captain Daphne Clark. Freshman attacker Genevieve Grandison knotted the score at three early in the second half with a nice run at the goal from the corner.
As was the theme of the game, Harvard was unable to score the next goal and gain control of the lead. Vanderbilt soon went ahead 5-3 as a result of two Crimson defensive breakdowns.
"Our settle-attack is another of our weaknesses," Brown said. "We have trouble clearing out the middle, making it very difficult to take good shots."
Harvard tried to climb back into the match with two goals of its own. On a free possession shot, senior defender Chris Shortsleeve ran in and bounced a shot over the goalie's shoulder. Two minutes later, junior defender Holly Rogers fired a long shot that sneaked through the Commodore defense and into the net.
Just as earlier in the game, Harvard could not take the lead. Vanderbilt scored two more, and held off some last minute desperate attacks by Harvard. With under a minute left in the game, Hren had a free possession shot to send the game into overtime, but it sailed over the net and out of bounds.
The Crimson definitely had many chances to gain control of the game, but the offense never clicked.
"We can't seem to generate the goals," coach Kleinfelder said. "We struggle offensively, with many of our goals coming from the defense."
Part of Harvard's offensive woes must be attributed to its youth. With seven first years on the team, it will take time for the players to adjust to the new faces and the new system.
"It's hard for the freshmen," Kleinfelder said. "We're asking a lot of them. We lost the majority of our attackers last year. There's no one to show them the way."
"Most of it is inexperience, not seeing where the open space is when they shoot," Kleinfeder continued. "We need poise under pressure, which will only come from experience."
Although it may be a difficult transition, the first-years are here, and they will have to help the team raise its level of play. However, it is the entire team that needs to become more aggressive on the field. But the aggressive play must be in concert with the team -- everyone needs to play well.
"A group of players will be on, but never the whole team," senior co-captain Shana Barghouti said. "It's hard to play 12 players against six. It's really frustrating."
Brown echoes the need for Harvard to begin taking charge of the games early and increasing their intensity level for the entire 60 minutes.
"We beat ourselves. We're not all on the same wavelength," Brown said. "We need to work together. We've got the game. Now we need to go find it."
G: Vanderbilt--Ehst (2), Napolitano, Dillow (2), Yekenchik, Kehl; Harvard--Hren (2), Clark, Grandison, Shortsleeve, Rogers. A: Vanderbilt--DiStefano; Harvard--Dillow, Ehst. S: Vanderbilt--Crabtree 12; Harvard--Barghouti 17.