Freshman Noel Painter, shown above in the game against Vermont, blasted a shot past Brown goalkeeper Shannon McSweeney in the 35th minute to build a two-point lead in the second period. Sophomore Kyleigh Keating and junior Emma Keller scored later in the frame. Harvard outshot the Bears, 21-12.
On a day commemorating the 20th anniversary of the 1981 Harvard women’s field hockey team’s successes, the Crimson alumni weren’t the only ones celebrating. Harvard (5-3, 2-1 Ivy) took a dominant step forward on Saturday as it crushed Brown (1-8, 0-3), 4-0.
The first major offensive attack came at the 28:48 mark of the first half. After the Bears’ penalty corner shot was blocked, the Crimson launched a counterattack that took the ball downfield. Freshman Noel Painter sent a quick pass to junior Kim Goh, but the ball escaped its target and the storm was temporarily weathered.
But, with 15:20 left in the half, junior Katelin Wahl dribbled the ball into a tight pack and managed to send off a shot that put Harvard on the scoreboard, 1-0.
Play continued with a slew of penalty corner shots for the Bears that spanned the rest of the first half. While Brown did not take advantage of these shots, Crimson coach Sue Caples was still clear on her team’s need to improve in the second half, and improve it did. Despite the penalty corner disparity in the first period, Harvard ended up on top of that category, earning 11 shots to its opponent’s seven.
“I think we battled Brown really hard for 70 minutes,” Caples said. “It took us a half to start getting the results. We should have had more to show for in the first half, but Brown played tough and had a lot of opportunities. Most of them were corners.
“We need to do a better job of taking care of the ball in the circle, but I think in the second half, we made some really good adjustments and controlled things. We were really pleased with the second-half performance.”
The second half opened with a Crimson goal after only 18 seconds. Painter buried a shot assisted by Catriona McDonald, and it set the pace for the rest of the game.
“I think the run down by Cat in the first 15, 20 seconds was pretty spectacular,” Caples said. “We have a lot of speed out there. Speed is a very dangerous weapon, and it’s hard to defend.”
This was evident as Harvard continued to put increased pressure on the Bears, giving up fewer shots on goal as the game went on. But whenever a Brown player did penetrate the Crimson’s defense, junior goalkeeper Cynthia Tassopoulus put a clear stop to the drive.
“She’s a rock,” said Caples of her goalkeeper. “Solid, great leadership back there. [She was] big defensively.”
Tassopoulus had 12 saves on the day, leading the defense to its second shutout win of the season
“Our mentality was to really try to keep them from getting shots,” Tassopoulus said. “They got some, but I think we did a good job of holding our circle and making sure we were mentally tough.”
When faced with a penalty corner and a penalty stroke in succession, Tassopoulus denied the shots and fended off yet another Bears’ attack.
“I was trying to stay very focused and just watch the ball all the way … At that point, you just have to hope that we can stop it.”
To complement the steady defense, Harvard’s offense also stepped up. Sophomore Kyleigh Keating knocked a close-range shot into the bottom left corner of the net to increase the Crimson’s lead to 3-0 at 53 minutes.
To cap the scoring off, a breakaway led by sophomore Bridget McGillivray and finished off by junior Emma Keller gave Harvard its final goal of the night, setting the score at 4-0.
Caples was very satisfied with the overall effort, noting the consistency of her team at this point of the young season.
“We’re working to put a complete game together,” Caples said. “We’re really pleased. Great team effort.”
Tassopolous was also content with the Crimson’s game, noting the offensive prowess throughout.
“We were able to come out strong and keep the pressure high the entire game and come up with shots at different times,” Tassopoulus said.