In a closely contested game, the Harvard field hockey team was unable to ride its second-half momentum to victory, losing, 3-2, to Columbia on Senior Day at Jordan Field.
The Lions (9-8, 4-3 Ivy) dominated the first half, scoring two goals to the Crimson’s zero. Although Harvard (3-13, 1-6) controlled the tempo for most of the final period, the team could not muster enough offense to erase the deficit.
Despite the loss, the second-half surge was a positive sign for the Crimson, which has struggled throughout the season and finished tied for last in the Ivy League.
“I was really excited with the way we played the second half,” co-captain midfielder Kim Goh said. “We knew coming in that we could compete with Columbia. In the first half, we hung on, but I don’t think we showed nearly as much of what we can do. We fixed a lot of things [in the second half], we played like we believed in ourselves, and it really showed.”
Both of Columbia’s first-half goals resulted from rebounds off co-captain goalie Cynthia Tassopoulos. Following a corner in the 13th minute of play, Tassopoulos dove to stop a shot but left the cage wide open for Lions’ senior back Katie DeSandis to punch in the deflection.
Columbia forward Gabby Kozlowski—who ranks fourth in the Ivy League in goals—netted her 10th tally of the season toward the end of the half when she pounced on a loose ball in the circle and sent it past a cluster of Harvard defenders.
Tassopoulos posted three saves in her final game in a Harvard uniform. The co-captain is one of only three Crimson goalies to reach 500 saves in the history of the program.
“[Tassopoulos] has been tremendous her whole career here, and it’s unfortunate we have to say goodbye to her after one year of me coaching here,” said Crimson coach Tjerk van Herwaarden. “She has made tremendous saves over the last couple of games and today as well. She showed up big for the team.”
Harvard struck first in the second half, when a goal from sophomore forward Noel Painter brought the Crimson within one.
Freshman back Elizabeth Jacobson stole the ball close to midfield, dribbled all the way to the net, and passed to Painter who sent a shot into the open cage.
Columbia made it 3-1 in the 61st minute when DeSandis unleashed an attempt from the right side of the circle that snuck past Tassopoulos. The goal was DeSandis’ second on the game.
It looked as if Harvard would go away without a fight until—in the final minute of play—senior forward Katelin Wahl took a pass from Painter on the right side of the circle and scored. Although the goal energized the crowd it ultimately came too late.
“I think we started to believe a little too late,” Herwaarden said. “In the first half, we were sort of holding back and being more careful, and we gave Columbia too much time and too much room to play the game. In the second half, I think we focused more on what we are capable of and not as much what they can do, and I think that worked out very well for us.”
Most of the action in the first half took place on the Crimson side of the field, as Columbia maintained possession and outshot Harvard, 9-4. But in the second half, the Crimson resembled an entirely different team, totaling seven shots to the Lions’ three.
Several times in the final period, Harvard found itself with a numbers advantage on the fastbreak but could not muster the finishing strike.
“It comes down to scoring goals, and right now we need four or five opportunities to score a goal,” Herwaarden said. “They need maybe two or three to score a goal, and that’s kind of been the story of our season. That’s something we need to change.”
For the five Crimson seniors, Saturday’s loss was certainly a bittersweet moment. Although the season was not filled with many wins and ended with a tough loss, seniors Tassopoulos, Goh, Wahl, Emma Keller, and Molly Stansik nevertheless say they had a productive experience as part of the team.
“It’s not just growing as a field hockey player, you grow because you learn how to really invest yourself in something,” Goh said. “That’s what it’s given me, is learning how to be okay with putting everything on the line.”