Field Hockey Faces Nemesis Princeton
There’s no question that Harvard-Princeton is a game that the Crimson looks forward to the entire season, though that doesn’t mean No. 15 Harvard (9-4, 4-0 Ivy) looks past its other opponents. Every game and practice this season, the team has looked to improve so it can consistently win games like tomorrow’s against No. 14 Princeton (7-5, 4-0).
“We’ve had very competitive games this year against top-ranked teams, and we feel that has prepared us for the match on Saturday,” said Harvard coach Sue Caples.
Beating Princeton is a goal in any Harvard season, but Tiger senior Ilvy Friebe, the 2001 Ivy Player of the Year, went as far as to suggest that beating Princeton was the sole goal of Harvard’s season.
“Harvard’s goal every year is to beat Princeton,” Friebe said in Tuesday’s Daily Princetonian. “They don’t care if they lose all their other games.”
As evidence against Friebe’s comment, the Crimson can refer to its nine convincing non-Princeton wins this season, as well as its season two years ago, when it earned the Ivy League’s only at-large berth in the NCAA tournament to date.
“Every game this season is really important,” said junior forward Kate McDavitt, the second-leading scorer in the Ivies after Friebe. “Especially because the past two years we haven’t beaten Princeton, and we have gone to NCAAs based on our schedule outside of the league. That says a lot for our team.”
And while Wednesday’s 1-0 double overtime loss to Boston College might seem to be the result of a team coming out flat with the thought of Princeton on the horizon, McDavitt says that was hardly the case. Rather, the team’s offensive struggles were a result of failing to adjust to adversity after great success over the previous weekend—dominant wins over then-No. 15 California, 4-1, and New Hampshire, 5-0.
“We had just come off two huge wins, and I think we were really thinking we’d carry through, and our game play would be right on,” McDavitt said. “We came out, and we were really flat, and it caught us off guard. BC plays an entirely different style of defense, and they shut down a lot of things we usually rely on.”
Harvard’s offense will have to do better against First Team All-American goalkeeper Kelly Baril. BC is the only opponent all season who has held the Crimson under two goals with McDavitt in the lineup.
The Crimson has outshot and outcornered every team it has played this year with the exception of No. 4 Wake Forest. It believes it can continue that trend against the Tigers, despite the intimidating numbers Princeton has posted in Ivy competition—a combined 31-3 score total in four games.
No one at Harvard, however, feels that this year’s Tiger team is significantly stronger than the nonconference competition the Crimson has faced this season.
Friebe, who led the nation in scoring last season, has 20 goals and six assists this season. Harvard must slow her down for the full 70 minutes, including the first 12 seconds—something the Crimson didn’t do in last season’s 5-2 defeat, when Friebe scored right off the opening possession.
Princeton has an offense that has piled up goals against the weaker teams in the Ivies, but Harvard expects that its defense, which has given up the fewest goals in the league this season behind junior goalkeeper Katie Zacarian, can hold strong. Harvard is also one of only a handful of teams nationwide that hasn’t lost by more than a goal all season.
“[Princeton] is a very fast team, and they’re very skilled too individually,” said captain Katie Scott, the Crimson’s sweeper. “Teams, when they fall behind 4-0, tend to give in. But we’ve always had a really close game against Princeton. I think this year will be no different.”
Scott is one of only three members of the team who was around for Harvard’s closest recent chance at beating Princeton in 1999, when the Crimson had a 2-1 lead late in the game, but couldn’t hold on.
Harvard’s 2-0 defeat in 2000 was closer than the final score indicated. Princeton scored its first goal off a penalty corner, then Friebe tacked on an insurance goal after the Crimson had pulled up its defense.
Princeton, for all its offensive prowess, has been more vulnerable this season. Just two weeks ago, the Tigers lost 2-0 to No. 16 Boston University and needed overtime to top Connecticut.
Princeton can’t realistically afford another loss to safely make NCAAs. Neither can Harvard. The Ivy automatic berth is the only sure route.
Harvard hasn’t beaten Princeton in several years, but now would be a good time for the Crimson to start.
—Staff writer David R. De Remer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.