Gamble Pays Huge Dividends in Opener

Freshman nets OT winner in Nelson’s Harvard head coaching debut

Jessica E. Zbikowski

A scoring barrage by a reserve attacker playing in her first collegiate game made new Harvard coach Sarah Nelson ’94 a winner in her own debut.

Freshman Liz Gamble had three goals, including the game-winner in overtime, as the Crimson women’s lacrosse team roared back from a 7-2 halftime deficit for a thrilling 9-8 overtime win against UMass in Amherst, Mass. on Saturday.

Gamble also had a key assist, setting up junior Elaine Belitsos for the tying goal with just 1:03 remaining in regulation.

“She has an awesome shot,” said sophomore defender Bridget Driscoll of Gamble. “It’s really hard and really accurate. She came through when we needed her.”

Junior midfielder Rory Edwards echoed these sentiments about the precocious freshman. “She’s a goal-scorer, and her stick skills and eye for the goal are really mature, a lot beyond her years. She plays with confidence.”

The victory marked an exciting start to Nelson’s tenure.

Nelson, a second-team all-American as a senior and a current member of the U.S. National team, replaced longtime coach Carole Kleinfelder, who retired last spring.

The game could not have started out any worse for the Crimson (1-0). UMass (1-2), which had already hosted two games this year, scored just 33 seconds into the match and, before the contest was six minutes old, held a commanding 4-0 lead.

Junior Catherine Sproul found the back of the net to finally get Harvard on the board, but the Minutewomen responded with three more goals to take a 7-1 advantage, its largest of the contest.

Belitsos responded by scoring with just over a minute left in the half to give the Crimson some momentum going into the break.

Nevertheless, Harvard was face-to-face with a five-goal deficit.

“That wasn’t our team playing in the first half,” said Driscoll. “We were playing timidly, we were scared, and I think we had some first-game jitters.”

The Crimson managed to regroup, however, and came out on fire when halftime ended.

“We all just stepped onto the field in the second half with a lot more confidence,” said Edwards.

After five scoreless minutes to start the second half, junior Casey Owens found the net, followed just nine seconds later by a goal from junior Bessie Clark off a pass from sophomore Allison Kaveney.

Then Gamble began to take control. Her goal with 21:34 remaining, assisted by Owens, cut the deficit to 7-5, though UMass responded two minutes later to regain a three-goal lead.

But the Crimson’s furious comeback continued. Gamble netted another goal with 14:27 to go, and Owens’ second score of the game at the 12:06 mark brought Harvard to within one at 8-7.

UMass clamped down on defense, though, as the Crimson spent the next 11 minutes frantically trying and failing to tie the game.

Then, with just 1:03 remaining on the clock, Belitsos beat UMass goaltender Lauren McCarthy on a Gamble assist to tie the match at eight.

Gamble completed her hat trick in overtime, scoring at the 4:44 mark on an assist from freshman midfielder Caroline Hines to finish an improbable victory.

Harvard was outshot for the contest 31-22, mainly because of a poor first half in which UMass held an 18-7 shot advantage. The Crimson made some halftime adjustments and beat the Minutewomen 13-12 in shots in the second half. Harvard found the net on six of those shots, compared to just one for UMass.

The Crimson won the ground ball battle by an astounding 38-10 margin, including 18-1 in the second half and 4-0 in overtime.

“It’s pretty huge,” said Driscoll of the victory. “We had to set the pace for the season and prove that we can play together as a team.”

The Crimson hosts Boston College in its home opener on Wednesday at 1 p.m. at Jordan Field.