As the rain poured and temperatures dipped below freezing in Cambridge, Harvard field hockey (8-7, 3-3 Ivy) had its hopes of its first Ivy League title since 2004 shut down by Dartmouth (9-7, 4-2), losing 1-0 on Saturday.
The majority of the game was played in the Crimson’s defensive half, resulting in a shot disparity of 21 for the Big Green to just nine for Harvard. Junior goalie Cynthia Tassopoulos maintained the Crimson’s “bend-don’t-break” defense for much of the game, with the game’s lone goal coming midway through the second period. Tassopoulos leads the Ancient Eight in saves per game (8.93), goals against per game (2.02) and save percentage (.817).
“We didn’t expect to be playing in the defensive half for most of the game,” Tassopoulos said. “But I think we adjusted well and were able play effectively from the back.”
Big Green midfielder Maya Herm broke the tie after dribbling into the circle from the left corner. It was her fourth goal on the season.
Tassopoulos continued her stellar season, putting forth an inspired effort in goal and stopping nine shots on goal while directing the defense, as it stopped all eight of Dartmouth’s penalty corners.
“We did a real nice job defending and breaking out into counterattacks,” Harvard coach Sue Caples said. “We were pleased with our first half effort keeping things even and were disappointed not to convert in the second period.”
Though the Crimson was stuck in defense for most of the game, on a number of occasions it appeared that its counterattacks would make the difference in the tight game.
Twice in the second half Harvard broke away for three-on-two fast breaks, and both times Big Green goalie Jenna Stearns dangerously came out of the goal to meet the challenge, thwarting the attack.
“We weren’t able to penetrate the circle a lot off set plays,” Caples said. “We weren’t very successful with our outlet passes and our build up through the midfield. We had to adjust and play a smaller, faster game. [Dartmouth] is really strong in the midfield. This was a game where we needed to be opportunistic, and, unfortunately, we just couldn’t convert.”
The competition wasn’t the only thing that the Crimson had to adjust to. The weather was an opponent of its own.
“Despite the weather, I think we played a pretty solid game,” Tassopoulos said. “That being said, I can’t feel my fingers right now.”
Part of the reason Harvard has been able to turn around its fortunes on the field this year compared to last has been solid depth through a constant stream of substitutions.
The weather took this advantage away from the Crimson.
“The biggest effect of the weather was moving people in and out,” Caples said. “It’s hard to sit when it’s that cold and then seamlessly transition back into playing. You saw that with the first touch, players on both sides coming off the bench had trouble handling the stick and controlling the ball.”
With the loss, Harvard is mathematically out of contention for the Ancient Eight championship. But that doesn’t mean there is nothing left to play for. With two games left on the schedule, the Crimson has a chance to have its first winning season since 2004.
This is also the final home-stand for co-captains Georgia McGillivray and Carly Dickson. The two seniors, both from Victoria, British Columbia, have been in the starting lineup since day one of freshman year and have been instrumental in the program’s turnaround. Dickson has been named All-Ivy all three years and will almost certainly repeat the feat this season with a team-leading 46 shots. McGillivray, twice All-Ivy honorable mention, has been the linchpin of a defense that has held opponents to one goal or less in eight of the team’s 15 games.
“Georgia and Carly have done an incredible job leading us this year,” Tassopoulos said. “We really respect them as leaders, and they’ve been helpful with everything, whether it’s motivating us on the field or keeping people loose off of it.”
Harvard plays No. 10 New Hampshire on Sunday and finishes off its season next Friday on the road at Columbia.
—Staff writer Alexander Koenig can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.