The No. 19 Harvard women’s lacrosse team opens the 2011-2012 season against Boston University on Saturday at Soldiers Field Stadium Soccer/Lacrosse Stadium.
The Crimson is coming off one of its most successful seasons to date, in which it recorded a 10-6 record and was 5-2 in Ivy league competition—the team’s best mark since 1994.
“I think there is a lot of excitement right now amongst the team for the first game,” co-captain midfielder Melanie Baskind said. “We have been practicing against ourselves for a while. We have high expectations for ourselves this season, and we are looking forward to see how this comes together.”
The team will return with all but one player from last year’s squad. The expectations are high for this team with top scorers, juniors Jennifer VanderMuelen and Danielle Tetreault, returning.
“We have a lot of returning players and we had a good season last year,” VanderMuelen said. “We want to start off where we left off and come out with a strong start to this season.”
VanderMuelen and Tetreault were recently named to the 2012 Tewaaraton Award watch list, which consists of the top 50 women’s lacrosse players in the country. Harvard will need their continued firepower, as both ranked in the top 31 players in goals per game last year.
“I think we are just going have to keep relying on what made us successful in the past,” Baskind said. “We are trying to get better every single day at practice, and we are trying to work hard and soak up everything the coaching staff has told us. Our goal is to continuously get better.”
The Terriers are coming off a less successful season wherein they finished just below the .500 mark. BU’s leading scorer, junior Danielle Etrasco, will look to continue her success from last season, in which she scored 57 goals—good for the eighth-highest goal total in the country.
In last year’s matchup between the two Boston-area teams, the Crimson easily defeated the Terriers, 16-6. Harvard jumped out of the gate, scoring five goals before 15 minutes had passed; Tetreault notched three of those five.
“Last year [we played] a very good game against [the Terriers], but we are both different teams now,” Tetreault said. “We have to come into this year respecting our opponent. Especially for that first game, we need come in and do what we were working on in the preseason and just try to be consistent.”
Last season the Crimson was known for being a dramatic comeback team, after falling behind due to some slow starts. Starting the game off stronger could help propel the Crimson to the next level.
“We have been working a lot on coming out strong and starting strong because we know that is going to make a difference,” VanderMuelen said. “The second half comeback is always exciting, but we want to start the game fast and set the momentum ourselves.”
VanderMuelen also stressed turnovers as a key to Saturday’s game.
“I think we need to limit turnovers,” VanderMuelen said. “It has been something we have been focusing on a lot this preseason, taking care of the ball and maintaining possession of the ball. We are working to be a more consistent team.”
Although Harvard had one of its more successful seasons in recent history last year, the team still fell short of the Ivy League title, after Princeton made a late three-goal comeback in the Ancient Eight championship game, pulling out a 12-10 win.
This year the Crimson will look to use that game as motivation to earn the Ivy Title this season.
“[Last year’s game] is definitely in the back of our minds,” Tetreault said. “It was a tough loss of us and I think throughout this season it will serve as a reminder that we need to work hard every game. We definitely have the players and potential, we just need to put it into action.”
And the quest for an Ivy title begins against the Terriers on Saturday.
“Last years success gives us a lot of confidence, knowing we can run with the top teams,” VanderMuelen said. “I think this year we are not only going to stay with those top teams, but we are going beat those top teams.”
—Staff writer Cameron Dowd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.