W. Lax Adjusts to Life Without All-Ivy Harper

At the start of every season, clichés start flying out of the woodwork. “Hope springs eternal” may be the favorite this time of year.

It is likely being tossed around dozens of locker rooms, ballparks and sporting fields by athletes and coaches alike.

It happens to apply particularly well, however, to the Harvard women’s lacrosse team.

If asked to put money on a surprise turnaround team in the Ivy race this season, the Crimson would be lacrosse’s equivalent of the New England Patriots.

“Expectations for the season are huge,” co-captain Hilary Walton said. “We’re hungrier, more focused and ready for a challenge. I have so much confidence that we are going to do really well this season, with our ultimate goal being an NCAA bid.”

It’s not hard to find where that hunger come from.

Last season was an unequivocal disappointment. It was the first time in school history the Crimson had lost six Ivy League games in a single season.

Given that as a backdrop, Walton’s hopes for an NCAA berth may sound like a captain’s blind exuberance, but that’s not the case.

Harvard’s 1-6 Ivy record and 6-9 overall mark gives a skewed impression of the team’s past performance and depth of talent.

Those six victories included a 9-8, season-opening win against No. 20 UMass and a 7-6, overtime upset of No. 7 BU. During the year, the Crimson also gave No. 3 Princeton, No. 10 Dartmouth and No. 12 Cornell cause for concern while keeping the final score close.

This season, Harvard is expecting to move those moral victories into the win column. Consistent play from start to finish will be the key.

“We are mentally and physically more prepared than we have ever been,” Walton said. “We worked harder in the off-season than we ever have, but we have to be ready for every game because each team can test our abilities in different ways.”

That test starts this Saturday at UMass, with the Ivy opener scheduled at home against Brown on March 20.

The strength of this team lies in the backfield, with a core of returning midfielders and defenders expected to anchor the team.

That nucleus includes co-captain Heather Hussey, seniors Erin Kutner and Heather Gotha and junior Leslie Moroz. Kutner was a second team All-Ivy selection in 2001.

“Midfield and defense are our team’s biggest strengths this season,” said assistant coach Sara Nelson ’94. “Most of our talent and experience lies in these areas.”