It is a widely held belief that the key to winning close games in intercollegiate athletics is experience and leadership. While co-captains Carly Dickson and Georgia McGilvray both put in impressive performances, tallying five and four shots on goal, respectively, it was the play of two freshmen, Noel Painter and Caitlin Rea, that gave the Crimson the victory.
The Harvard field hockey (8-6, 3-2 Ivy) relied on its youth to pull out an overtime 3-2 victory over Colgate (6-10, 1-3 Patriot) on Sunday.
“Carly and Georgia have done a terrific job stepping up and leading this young team this year,” Harvard coach Sue Caples said. “And it’s great, because now we can go into overtime and know that we have the weapons we need to come away with the victory. With this being our third overtime win this year, we know what we’re getting into.”
After two contested regulation periods, in which four green cards were issued and two goals were negated by a strict officiating crew, the teams entered the added period even at two goals apiece.
The fifth green card of the game came just over a minute into overtime. It was the second of the game for Colgate forward Halle Biggar, temporarily taking her out of the match and giving the Crimson an opportunity to reclaim an elusive victory. Rea and Painter did just that, connecting on a left-to-right pass that left the defense out of position.
“Caitlin just got me the ball in the circle and I put it in the back of the net,” Painter said. “I’m really glad that I was able to contribute to the team in my way and finish it off. It was definitely a team effort.”
The game-sealing goal was Painter’s second of the game and team-leading eighth of the season. The Harvard freshman is currently fourth in the Ivy League in the category and has potential at being named the conference’s freshman of the year.
“I’m very, very excited with how this season has been going,” Painter said. “We have to focus on getting one percent better every day as a unit. As a freshmen class, and really as a team, we’ve gelled both on the field and off of it, and I think that definitely helps.”
The Crimson dominated possession in the first half and drew first blood with a strike from distance by Rea. After stopping a long pass just outside the shooting circle, Rea deked her defender and unleashed a shot that sliced through the defense and into the left corner untouched.
Rea tallied two assists in addition to her game-opening goal. She found the back of the net on her first shot on goal at Harvard, giving her a 1.000 shooting percentage.
“It felt really good,” Rea said. “I was excited to be in the game, and I think we all had quite a lot of fun out there. It’s definitely a good way to end the weekend.”
The Raiders threatened to tie things up with a penalty corner following a yellow card on junior Molly Stansik. Colgate executed a pass and shoot that forced junior goalie Cynthia Tassopoulos to dive, stop the shot, and return possession to the Crimson, who ended the half with a one goal advantage. Tassopoulos continued her stellar play, saving nine of 11 shots and maintaining a .812 save percentage—good for second in the Ancient Eight.
“It was a very physical game, and the referees had to do their job and keep it safe, keep it skillful,” Caples said. “That’s what they’re here for.”
Harvard wasn’t so lucky the next time. The Raiders converted a penalty corner at the beginning of the second half to draw the score even, 1-1. Tassopoulos guessed correctly, but Colgate midfielder Lauren Dittman’s shot sailed just over Tassopoulos’ shoulder as she stretched across the left corner of the goal.
With 15 minutes remaining in the period, the Raiders took advantage of another chance. Biggar scored off a rebound to move Colgate ahead, 2-1, after her first two attempts were stifled by Tassopoulos.
The lead was short lived however, as Painter and Rea returned the favor just 36 seconds later. Painter, who received a pass from Rea, knocked one past an outstretched Raider defender to bring the teams even once again and set the stage for overtime.
Harvard is currently tied with Dartmouth for fourth in the Ivy League and, with three games remaining, has a chance to have its first winning record since 2004. The Crimson hosts the Big Green on Saturday, in a matchup that will help shape the Ancient Eight title race.
“We’re going to be working really hard in practice this week,” Painter said. “Dartmouth is going to be a huge game.”
—Staff writer Alexander Koenig can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.