The first half of the 2012 season was a frustrating one for the Harvard women’s lacrosse team.
The Crimson entered the year with high expectations. Returning all but one contributor from its 2011 squad that finished two goals short of an Ivy League championship, Harvard opened play this February ranked No. 19 in the country.
But the Crimson (4-6, 1-2 Ivy), which will host Brown (5-4, 1-2) at Harvard Stadium on Saturday afternoon, hasn’t exactly played like one of the country’s top teams so far this season.
Struggling to find consistency and facing one of the toughest schedules in the nation, the Crimson stands one game under .500 with only five regular-season contests left on its schedule.
But Harvard, at times, has shown it possesses the talent to compete with the nation’s best. In one three-game stretch in March, the Crimson fell to No. 8 Penn, No. 19 Johns Hopkins, and No. 20 Boston College by a combined four goals. Against No. 2 Syracuse last Saturday, the Crimson kept even with the Orange in the second frame after being outscored, 6-2, in the first half.
Putting together those stretches of strong play into a complete game is the next step for a Crimson squad hoping to make its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1994 this May.
“I don’t think we’ve had our best game yet, far from it,” junior midfielder Danielle Tetreault said. “But I think that we’re still working hard every day and getting better at the things we need to get better at. Hopefully we’ll be able to put two halves together and show teams who we really are.”
Luckily for Harvard, it still has time to alter the course of its season. With four games left on its conference schedule, the Crimson has a number of opportunities to move into the top four spots of the Ancient Eight standings and earn a berth in the Ivy League tournament. The winner of the four-team, single-elimination tournament receives the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
“To get into the Ivy tournament, we need to win every single one of these games,” Tetreault said. “Each of these games is going to be the most important.”
The Crimson’s quest for a spot in the league’s upper half will begin in earnest this weekend when it takes on the Bears, with whom Harvard currently sits in a tie for fifth place.
Coming off a 14-8 loss to Dartmouth on Saturday, Brown represents a beatable opponent for the Crimson. The Bears, who fell to Harvard, 12-9, in Providence a year ago, are led by senior attacker Kaela McGilloway, who is ranked fourth in the conference in points per game, averaging 2.0 goals and 2.11 assists per contest.
But McGilloway is not Brown’s only offensive threat; the Bears boast five other players averaging at least one score per game and as a team average 11.44 goals per game—good for fourth in the conference.
Brown has had less success on the other end of the field thus far, as the Bears are sixth in the league in average goals allowed. Brown goalkeeper Kellie Roddey has struggled at times in the cage, stopping just 37 percent of the shots she’s faced.
For the Crimson offense, then, Saturday’s contest might be exactly what the doctor ordered. Averaging a league-worst eight scores per game, Harvard has struggled to find the back of the net. In its past six games, the Crimson has reached double figures just once.
While Harvard has struggled to score as a team, co-captain Melanie Baskind has come into her own offensively this year, leading the Crimson in both goals and assists with 17 and six, respectively. Tetreault has also proven to be a threat, posting 15 goals thus far, while her classmates Jennifer VanderMeulen and Micaela Cyr have added 12 apiece.
But the individual perhaps most important to the Crimson’s success this weekend is freshman goalkeeper Kelly Weiss. In the first 10 games of her career, Weiss has been strong in the cage, stopping 46.3 percent of the shots that come her way, good for second best in the league.
If the Crimson is to come away with a win Saturday and improve its chances of securing an Ivy League tournament berth, it will need another strong performance from Weiss.
“We have high expectations for ourselves,” VanderMeulen said. “This is the most important part of the season right now.”
—Staff writer Martin Kessler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.