Just two weeks into Ivy League play, the Harvard women’s lacrosse team’s playoff hopes were already grim. After opening its conference slate with back-to-back losses to Cornell and Penn, the Crimson sat at the bottom of the Ivy standings with just five league matchups remaining.
But six weeks and four straight conference wins later, the Crimson is right in the thick of the playoff hunt.
Harvard (8-6, 4-2 Ivy) moved one step closer to securing its second straight Ivy League tournament berth on Saturday afternoon, using a 7-1 second-half run to pull away from Columbia (2-12, 0-7), downing the Lions, 10-3, in New York.
With Cornell and Princeton’s weekend wins, Harvard remains in a tie with the Big Red and the Tigers for third place in the Ivy League standings behind Dartmouth (10-3, 5-1) and Penn (7-5, 5-1) heading into the final week of the regular season. The league’s top four finishers will punch tickets to the Ivy League tournament, where the recipient of the conference’s automatic berth to the NCAA tournament will be determined.
On Saturday, the Crimson had trouble distancing itself from a struggling Columbia team, leading by just one, 3-2, at the half. But in the final frame, it was a different story, with Harvard scoring four goals in the period’s first 10 minutes and then continuing on a 7-0 run. The Lions added one last score with 7:22 to go, but it was not nearly enough to erase the visitor’s lead, and the Crimson emerged on top, 10-3.
Junior midfielder Danielle Tetreault led the Harvard offense for the second straight game, finishing with a game-high four scores on nine shots. After averaging just 1.44 goals per game through the Crimson’s first nine games, Tetreault has been on a tear as of late. The junior has scored 14 times in Harvard’s last five games, including four in the past two.
“Danielle played awesome,” freshman goalkeeper Kelly Weis said. “She’s been working really hard on her shots. She’s extremely reliable. We know we can count on her to get big goals at crucial times.”
But the real story of the afternoon was the Crimson’s defense, which turned in its stingiest performance of the season, allowing just three scores on 16 shots.
Weis played a large role in the performance. The rookie, who entered Saturday’s contest ranked 16th in the nation in save percentage, stopped eight of the 10 shots she faced in 52:15 minutes of action. With the performance, Weis raised her season save percentage from 45.7 to 47.3 percent.
“[The defense] just [gives] me great angled shots,” Weis said. “The girls have no angles to shoot off. It’s all them—that’s the reason why the games are so low-scoring.”
Harvard’s defense also benefitted from the Crimson’s dominance of the ball. Harvard captured 12 of 15 draw controls (eight of nine in the second half) and caused 10 Lions turnovers.
The Crimson took advantage of the extra time with the ball, outshooting Columbia, 42-16, on the afternoon. In total, five Crimson players found the back of the net, including freshman midfielder Christine Thexton, who scored her first collegiate goal with 11:12 to go to put the visitors ahead, 8-2.
Tetreault got the scoring started less than five minutes after the opening whistle with an unassisted goal. The junior struck again one minute later to put the Crimson ahead, 2-0.
But the Lions responded. Columbia’s Camille Richardson and Taylor Gattinella added back-to-back goals to even the game at 2-2.
Tetreault tacked on her third score of the game with 12:42 left in the half to take back the lead, but the teams went into the break separated by just a single goal.