Field Hockey Falls Short of Upset
The Crimson almost pulled it off.
Thanks largely to the All-American caliber goalkeeping of sophomore Katie Zacarian, Harvard (4-4, 2-0 Ivy) took No. 3 Michigan (10-2) to overtime on Sunday afternoon and came a goalpost’s width away from stealing the game in regulation. But Michigan senior Catherine Foreman, a back from Australia, beat Zacarian from the top of the circle just two minutes into 7-on-7 play to lift the Wolverines to a 2-1 victory.
The Crimson fell 2-0 to No. 7 Michigan State (9-4) at neutral Ann Arbor on the preceding afternoon as the Spartans twice capitalized on penalty corners early in the first half. Though Harvard made NCAAs a year ago and the Spartans did not, Michigan State emerged as a title contender this past August with wins over defending national champion Old Dominion and ACC power Wake Forest, Harvard’s NCAA nemesis last season.
“[Michigan and Michigan State] are the strongest teams we’ve played,” said Harvard Coach Sue Caples. “We hadn’t played any games [this season] to prepare us for this level. This weekend sets us up for what’s coming next. The growth between just those two games was exciting.”
The parity of the weekend games was encouraging for the Crimson as it prepares for tomorrow’s game at No. 15 Northeastern, New England’s top-ranked team, and the resumption of the Ivy schedule on Saturday at Cornell, Harvard’s last Ivy opponent before it welcomes seven-time defending Ivy champion No. 5 Princeton to its home turf a week later.
“The only difference [between us and the Michigan teams] is the little things,” said senior forward Eliza Dick, an Ann Arbor native who scored against a former high school teammate in her homecoming. “We’re right up there with them in speed. We definitely know we can play with the top teams.”
Michigan 2, Harvard 1 (OT)
The Wolverines dominated the Crimson statistically in shots (21-4), penalty corners (9-0) and even penalty strokes (2-0), yet they still found themselves tied with Harvard at the end of regulation. Zacarian and Michigan goalkeeper Maureen Tasch—a former high school teammate of Dick, Harvard senior back Katie Turck, and Harvard sophomore back Diana Bowen at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor—kept the game scoreless after the teams traded goals in opening 11 minutes.
“Zacarian was awesome, she kept us in the game,” Dick said. “She attacked the balls. She came out defended her circle. She was like a field player out there.”
Foreman finally beat Zacarian for the game-winner from the top of the circle in the 72nd minute. Foreman said she was fortunate to have made the shot as Zacarian was in mid-step coming out of the net. Zacarian was unable to extend her right foot in time.
“I wasn’t really thinking,” Foreman said. “I just came into the circle and I wanted to shoot since the defender wasn’t really coming towards me. I took the shot and hoped it went okay, just looking for a rebound. I just got lucky and it went in.”
Harvard’s best chance to win the game came with under two minutes left in regulation as Tasch came out to her right and missed the ball coming across the goal. Sophomore forward Mina Pell, the Crimson’s leading scorer on the season, had a chance at the open net from a difficult angle, but her shot deflected off the far goalpost out of danger.
“We had our chances against Michigan and Michigan State, but we just couldn’t put the ball in the box,” Caples said. “We learned a lot about our strengths and weaknesses this weekend.”
Tasch had a relatively easy day in goal. She only needed two saves on the day to earn the win, in contrast to nine saves for Zacarian. The Wolverines had anticipated the challenge of beating the accredited Crimson keeper.
“[Zacarian] is a fantastic goalkeeper and we recruited her as well,” said Michigan Coach Marcia Pankratz. “She’s a remarkable kid—very athletic, very tall. We knew she’d really help keep Harvard in the game and we’d have to stay persistent and patient to get the balls by her.”
Before Sunday’s game, Michigan back Stephanie Johnson had been a perfect 3-for-3 on penalty strokes. But facing the presence of Zacarian in goal, she pulled a stroke wide on two separate occasions. Opponents have failed to score on penalty strokes against Zacarian in three tries in Harvard’s last three games.
The Crimson also kept the Wolverines off the scoreboard on all nine Michigan penalty corners, despite the absence due to injury of sophomore forward Jen Ahn, the team’s primary flyer. Senior forward Heather Hussey stepped up to replace her.
Turck and senior back Natalia Berry each were credited with defensive saves in the Crimson backfield, which also featured senior back Sarah Luskin and All-Ivy junior back Katie Scott. They quieted a Wolverine attack that had beaten its four most recent unranked opponents by a combined score of 25-3.
But with Michigan constantly pressuring the Harvard defense and the Crimson failing to counter on their own end, the Crimson was destined for defeat.
“We gave them too many opportunities to score,” Caples said.
Foreman also set up Michigan’s first goal just three seconds past the five-minute mark of the first half. She passed the ball through a crowd to junior forward Molly Powers who dived and chipped the ball past Zacarian for the score. It was Powers’ sixth goal of the season and Foreman’s eighth assist.
Dick netted the equalizer five minutes later with some help from her fellow forwards. Hussey started the attack with a shot straight on Tasch. Freshman Tiffany Egnaczyk gathered the rebound and set up Dick for the finish, hardly the first time she had scored on her former high school teammate after years of practice together.
Dick now has scored three goals in her last four games, already eclipsing her scoring total from her junior season.
“We’ve just been playing together more and reading each other better,” said Dick in explanation of her scoring surge. “There have been rebounds and little dump passes. It hasn’t been me at all.”
Michigan State 2, Harvard 0
The Spartans scored in the 15th and 18th minutes of the game on penalty corners, and the defenses took control from there. Midfielder Annabet Benning, a freshman from the Netherlands scored the first goal, while Massachusetts native Maureen Halstead tallied the second.
Although neither Spartan corner was particularly well-executed, each managed to find its way into the back of the net.
“The first [corner goal] was kind of a knuckleball, off-speed,” Caples said. “The second one was tipped off beat. It was not a good one.”
Harvard was outshot 17-7 on the day. The two teams were near even on corner opportunities, as the Crimson were awarded five to the Spartans’ six.
The game was played on neutral turf at Ann Arbor. The Crimson’s first trip to Michigan in school history gave the three natives a chance to catch up.
“It’s a great sports community in Ann Arbor,” Dick said. “All the Pioneer [High School] dad’s were there. I was so surprised they came. It was fun trip.”
But besides being fun, it was a significant learning experience for the Crimson as it continues the race for its first Ivy title in 10 years. Harvard has come close to beating top ten teams on several occasions in the last two years but has yet to pull out a victory.
“We can be a very good team, but at Michigan we were just a good team,” Caples said. “We have to learn how to play at this level.”