The Harvard women’s lacrosse team (9-6, 5-2 Ivy) used a six-goal second half to down No. 10 Dartmouth (10-4, 5-2), 7-5, on Friday night at Harvard Stadium.
“We were really happy with our play on Friday,” junior attacker Jennifer VanderMeulen said. “It was largely a defensive game in the first half, and I think our defense played great. They kept us in the game, and then the offense started to step up [in the second half], and it was great to put away a good team like Dartmouth.”
The Crimson had already clinched a bid to the Ivy League tournament by virtue of Princeton’s loss to Penn last Wednesday, but the team was looking to extend its four-game winning streak with a victory against a strong Big Green team.
Harvard, which struggled with consistency earlier this season and dropped its first two Ivy League contests, will now compete for the Ivy League’s automatic berth to the NCAA tournament in the four-team tournament that begins this Friday at Penn.
“It was a really exciting win,” co-captain Melanie Baskind said. “I think we are peaking at the right time. Obviously we were thrilled to clinch a spot the Ivy League tournament. We wanted to win the game and to continue to feel good about our chances in the Ivy League tournament.”
In Friday’s matchup, both squads turned in impressive defensive performances in the opening frame.
Dartmouth struck first with 13:01 to play in the first, but the Crimson countered with a goal by VanderMeulen. With 2:41 to go, the Big Green notched its second goal off a Liz Calby score to take a 2-1 lead into the break.
“I think [the low scoring half] was a testament to the defenses of both teams which were fantastic,” Baskind said. “This was a game between two very good lacrosse teams. We knew it was going be a close game.”
The Big Green came out with another goal in the second half to push its lead to 3-1. Baskind rose to the occasion for Harvard with two consecutive goals to even the score, 3-3, with 27:21 to go. But Dartmouth soon regained the lead off Calby’s second score to go up, 4-3.
“Both teams were taking smarter shots in the second half,” Baskind said. “In the second half, both teams were a little more competitive going to the cage. People took more chances and played more aggressively.”
But from there Harvard took control. The Crimson scored three consecutive goals to take 6-4 lead with 12:40 to go in the second half. Junior Micaela Cyr led the charge this time with two consecutive goals assisted by VanderMeulen.
Freshman goalkeeper Kelly Weis helped close the game for the Crimson, recording three saves on four shots in the final 11:01 of play. The Big Green managed to pull within one with 5:59 to go, but was unable to get any closer as its final two attempts were denied. VanderMeulan capped off the win with a score with eight seconds to play.
With the win in its regular season finale, the Crimson now sets it sights on the four-team, single elimination Ivy League tournament. Last season, Harvard fell in the championship matchup to Princeton and was denied the conference’s automatic berth to the NCAA tournament.
“[Friday’s win] is huge going into the tournament,” Baskind said. “We had some low points in the season and fighting through those made us more competitive and smarter.… Now that we know we are playing on a level we have been trying to reach all year, it makes [us] a lot more confident going into this weekend.”
—Staff writer Cameron Dowd can be reached at email@example.com.