SEASON RECAP: Young Crimson Weathers Mid-Season Storm to Finish Strong

Plagued by inconsistency and slow starts, the Harvard women’s lacrosse team battled through a difficult season, finding wins where it could, but often falling to more skilled, veteran teams.

The Crimson opened the season with a 14-13 win over Holy Cross and closed with a 12-11 win over Brown, but found its youth and inexperience too often exposed between these two stirring victories.

The victory over the Crusaders came with only seven seconds remaining, when junior Caroline Simmons set up sophomore Kaitlin Martin for the winning score. The victory gave Harvard high hopes for the rest of the season, hopes that were quickly dampened when Massachusetts exposed the team’s vulnerabilities in the second game of the season.

The Crimson led UMass, 2-1, early in the in the game before, perhaps struck with overconfidence, it proceeded to give up a nine-goal run to the Minutemen in an eventual 18-7 loss.

Such extended runs by the opposition would plague the young Harvard squad all season long. Senior attack and captain Perry Barlow led a team that started a considerable number of underclassmen, including freshman goalkeeper Katherine Martino—the only goalie on the team’s roster.

“Katie Martino thought she was going to be coming in under a senior goalie, and she had to come in and start,” Barlow said. “We had to bounce back from that, but our defense was extremely strong.”

The Crimson gave up another nine-goal run to Boston University, an eight-goal run by Dartmouth, and a 10-goal run by Penn. Such scoring sprees often put victory far out of reach for Harvard early in the game.

The loss of junior midfielder Natalie Curtis midway through the season with a broken leg hurt the link between the team’s offense and defense and contributed to the trouble the team had giving up scoring spurts.

However, in games that were decided by less than a five-goal margin, the Crimson actually went 3-0 this season, an indicator that reflects well on the team’s mental toughness.

“We went in with very high expectations, and I think ultimately, we didn’t feel we lived up to our potential, but I think the team dynamic was the best it’s ever been,” Barlow said.

The next generation of the team appears prepared to step up next season. Sophomore attack Kaitlin Martin led the team in goals, with 39, and total points. Junior attack Caroline Simmons coupled 25 goals with a team-leading 10 assists, while fellow junior attack Tara Schoen notched 25 goals of her own. Freshman Sarah Flood scored 14 goals and had eight assists.

“I think one of the things we were lacking this season was more assists. It wasn’t that our offense was being selfish, but we were oriented toward a more one-versus-one game,” Barlow said. “Caroline obviously scores, but she has looked to pass as well.”

Harvard showed its will power against the Bears in the final game of the season. Brown seized an early 3-0 lead, but instead of succumbing to the onslaught, the Crimson battled back with goals from Schoen, Martin, and junior Jacqueline Hehir to tie the game at 3. Harvard did not lead for the first 42 minutes of the game, but each time Brown seized a lead, the Crimson quickly retaliated.

Schoen finally scored to put Harvard ahead. While the Bears would score thrice more, they never regained the lead. With the game tied at 11, Simmons scored off a free-position shot with 25 seconds remaining to win the game and end the season on a happy note for the Crimson.

After four years as head coach, Sarah Nelson ’94 stepped down after the season to spend more time with her family, which includes an infant daughter.

Next year will test exactly how much the team developed. With nine juniors returning as seniors, the season could be a golden opportunity for Harvard lacrosse.

—Staff writer Tyler D. Sipprelle can be reached at sipprell@fas.harvard.edu.

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