As Harvard-Yale marks the end of this fall’s sports season and Thanksgiving break approaches, the accomplishments of this year’s Harvard field hockey team begin to fade. But the awards and events of the past few days give occasion for the 2002 Crimson to have another turn in the sun.
For the first time in school history yesterday, two Harvard players were named National All-Americans in the same season. Their announcement to the Third Team came as no surprise. One, after all, is appropriately nicknamed “Ahners.”
As to what makes junior back Jen Ahn and junior forward Kate McDavitt All-Americans, teammates credit their vision on the field and their playmaking abilities.
“They both just see the field,” said captain Katie Scott. “They must break it down in some way so they can see really good passes. They have great stickwork so they can dribble through a lot of people and make the great pass.”
Ahn proved her versatility on the field this year as she moved to back after playing midfield the previous two years. She was the team’s flyer on its defensive corners and the stick stopper on its much-improved offensive corners.
Ahn could play smart off the ball in marking the opposition’s top forwards, and she could play smart on the ball in working it upfield.
“Jen always carries the ball and she’s always calm and collected out there,” McDavitt said. “When she has the ball you know she’s going to do something with it.”
McDavitt had to become more versatile in the offseason as well. She spent her entire sophomore year rehabbing from knee cartilage damage and never could become the same player, physically, as in freshman year. But she nevertheless benefited from watching a season’s worth of games from the sidelines and became a smarter player. McDavitt doubled her goal-scoring total from two years ago, to the surprise of herself and her teammates.
“She definitely didn’t have the speed she had freshman year, but she’s more than made up for it by playing a smarter game and using her stickwork, and she shoots the ball so well,” Ahn said.
This year’s team was also the most decorated ever in terms of Regional All-Americans. Five Harvard players were recognized last week—Ahn, McDavitt and sophomore midfielder Shelley Maasdorp on the Northeast First Team, and Scott and junior goalkeeper Katie Zacarian on the Second Team.
Harvard distinguished itself at the national level this year beyond season-ending awards. On Sunday, Wake Forest beat Penn State 2-0 to win the NCAA Championship. The Demon Deacons closed out the year with 19 straight wins and only trailed on four occasions during that stretch. One of those deficits was in a 3-2 victory over Harvard at Jordan Field on Oct. 5.
McDavitt accomplished a feat in that game unmatched by any of the other 47 players nationwide that earned All-American honors—she scored twice against Wake Forest. No other player was able to say as much for the remainder of the year, as the Demon Deacons went on to outscore opponents 53-3 in their final 12 games.
Yet the consolation of playing competitively against the eventual national champion was “been there, done that” for this year’s team, which a year ago came inches from beating 2001 national champion Michigan in a 2-1 overtime defeat.
“It’s nice to know that we only lost by a goal to the national champions, but it’s kind of frustrating because it’s been two years in a row that we’ve done that,” McDavitt said.
So even the Crimson’s NCAA appearance, where it outshot No. 3 Michigan State 20-2 in the second half yet fell short in a 4-3 defeat, left a bad taste as the next season approaches.
“It’s a little depressing when it first ends because you have such high expectations going into the tournament, then walking away with a loss in the first round does not always give you the best feeling,” McDavitt said.
Scott was the one Harvard player who did earn a trip to Louisville—the NCAA championship host site. She played in Saturday’s NFHCA North-South Senior All-Star game, which ended in a 6-6 tie. Scott played in the backfield for the North squad, on which Ivy players stole the show, scoring five of the team’s goals.
For many of the seniors, the game was a relaxed way to work together with former regional rivals and a fun way to end their field hockey careers.
“It was a good way to end the season and my career,” Scott said.
While most of the Harvard players will have to wait several months to resume intense field hockey action, sophomores Kate Gannon and Tiffany Egnaczyk won’t have to wait longer than Christmas. Both were selected this summer to U.S. Field Hockey ‘A’ camp, which lasts for five days prior to New Year’s Eve, and is used for U.S. national and junior national selection purposes.
For other players, life will restore to its field hockey-free state for the next few months, but they’re okay with that.
“After a good week or so, everybody gets back to normal and remembers there’s life after field hockey,” McDavitt said.
—Staff writer David R. De Remer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.