The Harvard and Cornell field hockey teams entered Saturday’s game with unblemished Ivy records. When they left, only the Crimson held control of its own destiny atop the Ivy race.
The 2-0 victory over the Big Red (7-4, 3-1 Ivy) ensured that the Crimson (7-3, 4-0) will carry a perfect league record into its next Ivy showdown at eight-time defending league champion Princeton in two weeks.
Harvard took a lead against Cornell it would not relinquish just four minutes into the match, when freshman midfielder Jen McDavitt intercepted an errant Cornell pass and attacked the goal.
With only the goalkeeper to beat, McDavitt made the smart play and sent the ball across the field to sophomore forward Tiffany Egnaczyk. Egnaczyk quickly gathered the pass, flicked the ball behind the Cornell netminder right to the stick of McDavitt, who tapped in the Crimson’s first goal.
“I picked it off, saw Tiff wide open, and just went in for the follow up,” McDavitt said.
The twosome’s keepaway tactics set the tone for the rest of the game, as Harvard’s stellar defensive play continually thwarted the opposition. Cornell had only five penalty corners and nine shots on goal for the contest.
The Big Red was always looking to advance the ball upfield, but with every pass or breakaway, a Crimson defender was there swiping at the ball, working to create a turnover.
Though the Crimson defense had a stellar match, short of the Jen McDavitt goal, the offense could not capitalize on its many opportunities.
Harvard was continually finding itself inside the Cornell circle, resulting in 23 shots on goal. However, the accuracy and the placement of those shots were mediocre at best.
“We got a lot of opportunities, and just could not finish,” said Harvard coach Sue Caples. “The mental lapses cannot be there.”
Harvard’s only other score came with seven minutes to play, when senior forward Philomena Gambale put in her own rebound for Harvard’s second goal of the match. That score ended any chance that Cornell had of sneaking out of Jordan Field with a win.
But it did not ease the minds of the Harvard offense. Caples said her team could have taken better care of the ball throughout the match. She stressed that the Crimson played some great overall team defense against Cornell, who she described as a very aggressive, physical team.
Leading scorer Kate McDavitt returned to action yesterday following a day off in Wednesday’s loss to Northeastern. She did not figure into the Crimson’s scoring against Cornell.
By game’s end, Harvard had corrected some of the nagging defensive problems from earlier in the season. But the Crimson will need to ensure that its offensive struggles as of late are merely an aberration if it is to succeed in its string of four games in the next two weeks—three against top-20 teams, the last being Princeton.
The Tigers (6-5, 3-0), who lost 2-0 to unranked Boston University this weekend, have been as vulnerable as ever this season, and Harvard must continue to improve if it is to take advantage and unseat the longtime defending Ivy champions.
“I would not say this is our best overall game,” Gambale said of Saturday’s match. “We’re on top of it, we just need to put things together.”
—Contributing writer Wes Kauble can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.