This wasn’t the week for the Harvard women’s lacrosse team to slay Goliath.
After a loss to No. 3 Princeton on Saturday, the Crimson faced off against heavily favored No. 4 Dartmouth. Harvard hadn’t won in nine games. The Big Green hadn’t lost in 11.
Neither streak was broken, as Dartmouth (12-0, 6-0 Ivy) overwhelmed the Crimson 13-4 at Scully-Fahey Field.
Early on, Harvard (2-10, 0-4) found itself down by a margin wide enough to preclude late-game rallying.
The Big Green scored two goals in the first 36 seconds of play, the first from midfielder Sarah Sanborn and the second from midfielder Katieanne Christian, who led scoring for Dartmouth with three.
“They came at us really hard. They scored a couple quick goals early in the game because our defense wasn’t ready to handle that kind of speed,” attack captain Catherine Sproul said.
Dartmouth sank three more, including another from Sanborn, before Harvard answered. Junior midfielder Allie Kaveney struck home on an assist from freshman midfielder Natalie Curtis with 10:45 left in the first to put the Crimson on the scoreboard.
Harvard did not close its 5-1 deficit, which grew thanks to another scoring burst from the Big Green, which tallied three unanswered goals.
The refined, orchestrated offense the Crimson saw at Princeton could hardly have prepared them for the raw athleticism that awaited them in Hanover.
“Everything they did was at Mach 10. Everything was so fast, the way they cradled was so fast, that everything was almost out of control,” Sproul said.
The Big Green’s offense rolled, firing off 32 shots to Harvard’s 14.
And it was an offense that the Crimson was hard-pressed to answer in the first before stiffening in the second half.
“We were caught a little bit on our heels with both their speed and their strength in the midfield,” captain defenseman Kelly Noon said. “We came up with a lot more turnovers in the second half. It was a dramatic improvement defensively.”
Harvard actually recovered more ground balls than the Big Green (42-37) as its defense made late adjustments to its defensive play. The Crimson also beat Dartmouth on draw controls in the second half (5-4).
The Big Green’s play in the midfield also led them to another lead, out-fouling Harvard 11-1 in the second half.
“Their game is always really aggressive, especially in the midfield. They came out exceptionally aggressively and the refs were calling it,” Noon said.
As in previous weeks, a ray of Crimson offense peeped through the cloud, with Harvard generating an inchoate rally around halftime. Freshman attack Tara Schoen unleashed a noteworthy shot from free position with 6:07 left in the half to pull the Crimson back to 8-2.
Sophomore midfielder Margaret Yellot opened the second half with a goal from free position at 27:46, but Harvard’s momentum left them.
Dartmouth scored three more before the Crimson’s final mark.
When it came time for Harvard to seize the ball, the Crimson couldn’t often capitalize on the opportunity. Of the 19 draw control face-offs in the game, Dartmouth picked up all but six.
“We’re seeing game in and game out that our first half score every single game reflects the draw control. At the end of the first half, they’d gotten eight draws and we’d gotten two, and that was the score,” Sproul said.
Junior Kristen Demorest and sophomore Caitlyn Cahow split halves in goal, with Demorest blocking five shots in the first and Cahow two in the second.
“In the last two games, we’ve had some defensive letdowns, but this [game] was good for us in terms of communication and the ability to play one-on-one,” Noon said. “We can play against an offense that strong and going into Ivy League games against Columbia, Cornell, and Brown, it’s looking great for our defense.”
The Crimson plays its last home game on Saturday against Columbia at 1 p.m. before embarking on a three-game roadstand.
—Staff writer Samuel C. Scott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.