If the Minutemen of colonial Massachusetts had as much trouble with defense as the Minutewomen of the University of Massachusetts had on Saturday, we might still be paying taxes to London.
Senior midfielder Elaine Belitsos racked up six goals to send the Harvard women’s lacrosse team (1-0) past UMass (1-2) in a 12-7 win in the Crimson’s season-opener. Led by Belitsos, Harvard buried the Minutewomen under a slew of first-half goals on an arctic afternoon at Jordan Field.
“In terms of sheer numbers, she was huge,” captain Catherine Sproul said. “She kind of had a breakout game.”
Sophomore midfielder Caroline Hines fueled the assault, notching seven assists for the game.
“Elaine and Caroline Hines were finding each other very well,” Sproul said. “They were kind of ripping the defense apart.”
The onslaught began only seconds—31, to be exact—after the opening face-off, as junior midfielder Allison Kaveney wove through the UMass defense for an unassisted goal.
“It helped set the tone,” Kaveney said. “It let the other team know we were ready to play.”
Junior attack Lindsay Cassell struck back to tie the game for the Minutewomen with 28:54 left in the half.
UMass held a lead in the game for less than three minutes, going up 2-1 on a free-position goal from sophomore Shelley Boyle.
But the Crimson regained the lead and kept going, closing out the first half with six consecutive goals.
Belitsos drove up the middle and converted a pass from senior midfielder Casey Owens, tying the game with 19:06 remaining in the half. Less than a minute later, Hines passed to Belitsos, who put Harvard up 3-2.
The rest of the half was unequivocally the Crimson’s. Two freshmen, attack Tara Schoen and midfielder Natalie Curtis, notched the first goals of their college careers, both in clustered action around the goalmouth on assists by Hines.
“Those two, in particular, we’re looking for great things this season from,” Sproul said. “There wasn’t a shadow of nervousness in either of their play, and I know they were excited about their first goals.”
Sophomore attack Liz Gamble closed the half with consecutive scores, circling the goal like a shark sizing up its prey before sinking the unassisted first and picking up the second on a Hines assist.
“Being able to score 12 goals in a game is big, especially against a team that is as good as UMass,” Sproul said. “That says a lot about our attack. It makes a huge statement for the rest of our season.”
Strong midfield play by Harvard barely permitted the Minutewomen possession of the ball in the first half.
While UMass tallied 13 turnovers in the half to the Crimson’s 10, the statistics do not relate the fact that Harvard’s ability to steal possession left the Minutewomen all but unable to set up an attack for the first half.
“The team really shined with team defense on the midfield,” Sproul said.
The Crimson began the second half in possession of a five-goal margin that the team maintained until the final whistle.
UMass answered all of Harvard’s goals, but the Crimson did not permit the Minutewomen to rally.
Belitsos scored four of Harvard’s second-half tallies, and Hines made the assist on three. Sproul snagged a goal of her own with 6:47 left on an assist from Curtis.
Though the game was all but sealed by the second half, UMass freshman attack Kathleen Typadis posed the greatest threat to the Crimson, notching four goals in the half, three of them unassisted.
UMass junior goaltender Lauren McCarthy tightened up as well, making five saves in the second half after making three in the first.
Harvard sophomore goaltender Kathryn Tylander also made a total of eight saves in her hour in front of the net.
The Crimson’s strength in the midfield eased the job of the team’s defense, which nevertheless generally stopped set attacks.
The Minutewomen had more success with occasional fast breaks than with controlled, paced play.
“UMass didn’t have the ball a lot, so you couldn’t see the defense at our best,” Sproul said.
Harvard had expected UMass to field a tight defense, but penalty statistics suggest that the Crimson had the edge in aggression. Harvard was given five of the game’s six yellow cards, with Schoen taking two.
“I guess we were all really excited to play and we were aggressive all over the field,” Sproul said. “I guess sometimes we were being a little aggressive, but it never got out of control.”
—Staff writer Samuel C. Scott can be reached at email@example.com.