The Harvard field hockey teams heads into tomorrow’s game against Princeton riding a seven-game losing streak, with hopes of the postseason tournament fading by the day. The Crimson (5-8, 1-3 Ivy) hasn’t scored more than one goal in seven of its last eight losses. The visiting Tigers (6-8), on the other hand, boast a 5-0 Ivy record and league-leading scorer Paige Schmidt, a two-time league player of the week.
The Princeton-Harvard field hockey game is always one of the premier sporting events of the fall. Both clubs boast impressive programs, and the game often determines the Ivy championship. In 2004, the Crimson, then undefeated in the Ivies, grabbed a 1-0 lead on a goal by midfielder Jane Sackovich with 18:55 remaining in the game.
The game, and potentially the league title, seemed to be securely in Harvard’s grasp, but in the last three minutes of the game, the Tigers scored twice to snatch a 2-1 victory. While the Crimson had the last laugh and won the league title (in a tie with Penn), the team would still like to avenge last year’s loss.
“The game this weekend is so important for us,” said senior midfielder Jen McDavitt. “One win could feel like many more. It’s great to know that we could bring down the reigning Ivy leader.”
Not only does Princeton sit atop the Ivies, but it could also secure at least a share of the Ivy League title and the league’s NCAA tournament bid with a win tomorrow. The Tigers have won 10 out of the last 11 league championships. The one year they failed? It was 2004, when Harvard took the title and the NCAA bid.
During this year’s seven-game skid, the Crimson has lost just two contests by more than one goal. Furthermore, the shot differential for each game is consistently even. But Harvard has not been opportunistic.
“We need to work on making our corners more successful,” McDavitt said. “We do a great job earning them, but they aren’t resulting in goals. We often rely heavily on corners, so it’s really frustrating that we aren’t capitalizing.”
Harvard coach Sue Caples said her team has “just got to keep shooting because those will start to fall.”
The Crimson has been working on drills to be more effective in the box. It will look to use the long ball frequently and defensively, and to deny key players the ball.
One such key player that Harvard must focus on is Schmidt, and attacker who leads the Ivies in goals scored (eight), shots (54), shots per game (3.86), and points (21). Schmidt, a sophomore, was just named Ivy League player of the week for her six-goal, one-assist assist. The Crimson defense will focus on cooling down Schmidt’s hot streak.
Harvard hopes to counter offensively with players like McDavitt, the team leader in points (10), and offensive weapons Jane Sackovich and Beverlie Ting, who have each scored three goals on the season.
According to McDavitt, Harvard will look to match the speed and stick skills of Princeton.
While the postseason may be unlikely for the Crimson, it still hopes to garner a win tomorrow, both for revenge and pride. Regardless of the teams’ records, tomorrow promises an intense shootout.
Harvard hopes to prove that the recent struggles are merely a fluke and that it remains one of the top teams in the league—and after all, the pressure is entirely on the Tigers. The Crimson has nothing to lose.
“We’re not intimidated by Princeton,” McDavitt said. We’ve got great confidence and just want to show the character of the team. Just because we aren’t going to the tournament doesn’t mean we won’t give it our all every time we’re on the field. We want to make a statement: never take us for granted.”
—Staff writer Julie R. S. Fogarty can be reached at email@example.com.