Instead, the day ended in controversy, with chants of “cheaters” and with a Dartmouth sudden-death overtime upset of No. 16 Harvard, 4-3.
“Playing my last home game was pretty emotional,” tri-captain Jen Ahn. “But that disappeared during the game. Unfortunately, the game itself was emotional, so afterward it was really tough to take the loss, knowing it was going to be one of my last impressions of Jordan Field.”
The loss eliminates Harvard (11-5, 4-2 Ivy) from contention for the Ivy League crown and the accompanying automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, which Princeton has now sewn up. The Big Green (5-10, 2-4) is the only unranked team to have defeated the Crimson this season, and the loss decreases Harvard’s chances of obtaining an at-large bid.
“It could end up costing us our season,” tri-captain Kate McDavitt said. “It feels like we have been cheated out of a win. It [makes] an awful ending to my senior year.”
Harvard dominated the game, taking 22 shots while Dartmouth had few scoring opportunities outside of its four penalty corners and took only nine shots.
During regulation, the crowd, many of whom were parents or family of the Crimson seniors, loudly supported the home team.
But by the end of the second half and into the overtime period, the home fans became edgy as they saw every single Big Green penalty corner converted for a goal.
When Dartmouth earned a corner in the second minute of overtime, the crowd and Harvard players erupted in screams. The fans predicted what was to come, as the fourth Big Green corner led to the game-winning goal.
Throughout the afternoon, the Big Green used an identical corner set-up that was successful every time. Lindsay Gossage inserted the ball to stick stop Averill Doering. Rebekka Stucker would then loft the ball into the upper left corner of the goal.
Dartmouth’s penalties were controversial because Stucker exchanged the stick she used during the rest of the game for a thinner version just before the penalty. The height of Stucker’s shots was also questionable given the proximity of Harvard’s players.
“Throughout the game, we’d been hoping to get a dangerous call,” McDavitt said.
Although this shot is legal in field hockey, the Crimson side—from the fans to Harvard coach Sue Caples—was angered by the Big Green’s lack of sportsmanship.
After the final penalty corner was called for Dartmouth in overtime, Caples was thrown off the field by the referee for arguing about Stucker’s use of a different stick. Stucker scored 15 goals during the Big Green’s five-game winning streak, which ended yesterday at Holy Cross. All but one came on penalty corners.
“The rumor is that [the stick switching] is going to be deemed illegal at the end of the season,” McDavitt said. “Nobody has ever tried to use it on us before.”
The Big Green’s success came though the Crimson knew of Dartmouth’s penalty-corner strategy through scouting reports and had practiced defending it.
“We tried to adjust the way we defended corners by protecting the goal more than preventing the shot,” Ahn said. “Ultimately, I guess we didn’t find an effective way of defending it.”
Following the final goal, Harvard fans began to scream at the officials and the opposing players. One fan ran to the front of the bleachers and screamed, “Let’s give it up for the magic stick.”
The comment drew loud and sarcastic applause from the Crimson crowd.
Aside from the unfortunate controversy, the seniors proved their worth on Saturday as they led the team all afternoon during the back-and forth affair.
Harvard got on the board first when sophomore midfielder Jen McDavitt intercepted an attempted Dartmouth clear just outside the circle and calmly sent the ball past Big Green goaltender Laura Balukjian at 14:17.
Dartmouth countered with its infamous penalty corner 12 minutes later.
Senior forward Mina Pell put the Crimson back ahead less than three minutes later, deflecting a shot from senior back Liz Andrews into the goal.
The Big Green responded in its usual fashion to close out the first-half scoring.
Harvard had been dominating the second half when the Crimson converted a corner to take the lead at 41:07. Andrews scored on the textbook corner, with Pell and Ahn assisting on the goal.
Ahn was especially potent during the second frame, intercepting Dartmouth’s passes and anchoring Harvard’s defense.
In fact, in the middle of the second half, Big Green coach Amy Fowler shouted at her players, “Watch for the girl wearing number 14 [Ahn] and don’t hit it to her.”
Only minutes later, and 56:54 into the game, Dartmouth tied the score when Stucker sliced the ball upwards rather than lofting it, achieving the same result as the three other goals she scored on the day.
Andrews had a chance to avoid overtime with seven minutes remaining, but couldn’t slip the ball past Balukjian.