Back in September, the Harvard field hockey team's prospects were bolstered by the team's new turf. Now, they're defined by sweat.
Tomorrow at noon, the No. 16 Crimson (11-5, 5-1 Ivy) will play Columbia in a critical Ivy League battle on Jordan Field. No. 6 Princeton all but locked up its seventh straight Ivy League Championship with a win over Cornell Tuesday night.
Princeton would have to lose its final Ivy game to lowly Penn tonight in order for Harvard to share the Ivy title with the Tigers. Faced with this unlikely scenario, Harvard's only realistic hopes of making its second-ever NCAA Tournament hinge on the announcement of at-large bids Tuesday night.
"We've spent the entire week talking about how we need to win this game, preferably by a lot," said co-captain Liz Sarles. "Columbia knows this could mean the tournament for us, and would love to play spoiler."
Recent losses to Princeton and No. 13 Boston University mean that Saturday's date with the Lions (11-5, 3-3) could make all the difference. A win would give the team a solid second-place finish in the conference and provide the NCAA selection committee with a compelling case.
Conversely, a loss would put some negative space between Harvard and the other teams vying for the tournaments final few berths, including UNH, BU, James Madison, and Ohio State.
"It's one of those games where if we win, it won't get us in on its own," junior back Eliza Dick said. "But if we lose, it will really hurt our chances."
The Crimson will look for its school-record sixth Ivy win against a Columbia squad enjoying the best year of its short history. Since going winless in 1998, Columbia has shown that it can compete with anyone in the conference.