Harvard midfielder Jen McDavitt controls the ball during the Crimson’s 1-0 loss to Brown. Harvard likely must win out to claim the Ivy title.
The No. 20 Harvard field hockey team has shown that it can play with the best in the country, posting a 1-0 loss to No. 2 Maryland and a 1-0 win over No. 15 Connecticut in the past week.
Brown, noticeably, is not one of the best in the country—but the Crimson made the mistake of playing them close anyway.
Harvard (5-2, 1-1 Ivy) fell to the Bears (3-3, 1-1) in yet another 1-0 game on Saturday afternoon.
So far this season, every one of the Crimson’s five victories has been a shutout, and both losses have been 1-0 affairs.
“Coming off of Maryland and UConn, where we played pretty well and we performed well, there was a little bit of ‘Oh it’s only Brown; if we played those other teams well, we’ll take them’,” junior back Jen DeAngelis said. “We thought Brown wasn’t going to be as good a team as they turned out to be.”
The lone score of the contest came 10:31 into the game when Brown senior back Kristen Vincent lifted a loose ball up and over freshman netminder Kelly Knoche.
The tally hit the back of the cage, and the second goal Knoche and the typically impenetrable Crimson defense have given up all year proved to be enough.
“We know that Ivy games are especially tough and we realized that Brown would be fired up to upset our season,” senior forward Jane Sackovich said. “The fact that we are No. 2 in the nation defensively, at some level, we came in overconfident; not necessarily that it would be an easy game, but that we would pull through with the win.”
Knoche recorded three saves, but was ultimately out-dueled across the field by Bears goalie Evelyn Brosi, who notched three saves of her own to preserve the shutout.
Harvard actually outshot the Bears by a margin of 10-5, and also held the final advantage in penalty corners, 8-7.
But for a team with high hopes and a newfound national ranking, the offense never became more than theoretical.
“Since our team defense has done such a great job, our team offense has become too complacent with scoring one or two goals,” Sackovich said. “This starts with not only the forwards, but with the midfielders and defenders.”
“For some reason we’ve been having problems connecting midfield to forwards,” DeAngelis added. “It seems like we’re always one pass away from breaking away. It’s obvious that’s one of the things we really need to work on.”
Saturday’s close defeat was even more unfortunate than usual as it came against a conference foe.
Last season, the Crimson barged into the NCAA Tournament when it won the Ivy League title on the strength of a 6-1 conference record. Its lone loss came against Princeton, 2-1.
Now, with Saturday’s defeat already on its resume, Harvard will likely have to leave no room for Ancient Eight error the rest of the way.
And the key to a repeat championship—or, perhaps, an at-large bid—will be the offense.
The Crimson has leaned heavily on Knoche and the backfield, but has scored one goal in its past three games. Harvard downed Ivy opponent Penn by a 1-0 margin, as well.
“There is pressure now because the Ivies are tight, and if you let up once, you can’t let up again,” DeAngelis said. “I think we’re going to keep the same attitude—take one game at a time and making each game count. Brown is a good lesson, every team is competitive and every team should be taken seriously.”
The Crimson plays next at Providence on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
—Staff writer J. Patrick Coyne can be reached at email@example.com.
—Staff writer Pablo S. Torre can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.