Controlling play from the opening minute, the No. 7 Tigers (11-2, 4-0 Ivy) now sit alone atop the Ivy standings as the only unbeaten team, while the Crimson falls to 7-5 overall and 3-1 in league play.
Friebe set the tone for the day by maneuvering up half the field from the opening push-back and hitting the ball into the back left of the goal past Harvard goalie Katie Zacarian just 12 seconds into the game.
The Crimson never recovered, playing unorganized defense and making sloppy passes that were easily intercepted by the Tigers. Harvard looked flat and slow to the ball in contrast to an energetic Princeton squad.
“We can’t let an early goal set us back like it did today,” said junior forward Philomena Gambale, who scored both Harvard goals. “We have to learn how to rebound.”
Friebe notched her second goal on the day and her 22nd on the season when Princeton turned a misplayed Harvard corner into a fast break of its own. Junior forward Rachel Becker drew Zacarian out of position and then passed across the goal to Friebe, who extended the Princeton lead to 2-0 with 8:44 left in the first half.
Zacarian finished with eight saves on 17 shots while Princeton’s goalie, junior co-captain Kelly Baril, made nine saves on 13 shots.
Harvard managed to cut the lead in half when Gambale took a rebound off Baril in front of the goal and pushed it past the line just three minutes after Friebe’s second goal.
Princeton cut short any thought of momentum by quickly responding. Sophomore midfielder Cory Picketts scored the eventual game-winner for the Tigers only two minutes later on an assist from freshman Ashley Sennett with 3:22 left in the half to make it 3-1.
“We got into a hole early and got defensive,” said Harvard Coach Sue Caples. “Each time they scored it seemed like a back-breaking goal.”
The second half started with the Crimson pushing to establish some continuity in its game. Gambale scored her second goal on the day with a penalty stroke that she lifted to the upper left of the net above a diving Baril, again bringing Harvard within a goal with 20:50 remaining in the game.
After Princeton dominated the first half with 10 shots on goal against the Crimson’s four, Harvard had six corners and took nine shots in the second half. Several strong scoring opportunities on corners were wasted when the Crimson failed to take advantage of their position.
“We didn’t have an ‘A’ game,” Caples said. “We needed execution, fundamentals, individual and team defense.”
Princeton, however, capitalized on its two corners in the half. With 7:18 left in the game, junior back Emily Townsend scored on assists by Friebe, who inbounded the ball, and by sophomore Claire Miller, who stopped the inbound at the top of the circle to set up the shot.
“Princeton is a great team, but we think we’re up to their level,” Gambale said. “We just didn’t bring our best game today.”
With the score 4-2, Harvard started scrambling, trying in vain to catch up. The rest of the game was physical, with the Tigers refusing to give into the Crimson’s pressure.
Becker drove home the final goal on an assist by Miller to seal Princeton’s victory with 3:30 left to play.
While Harvard’s hopes for breaking into national rankings this week were dashed, the team keeps focused on winning the Ivies.
“Obviously the loss is disappointing,” Caples said, “but we’re be back to work on Tuesday to finish the season strong.”
On a positive note, Saturday marked the return of captain Jane Park, who has been sidelined by an injury. She played for the first time this year.
Harvard takes on another Ivy opponent in its next game on Friday at 3 p.m. when Dartmouth travels to Cambridge.