The Harvard’s women’s lacrosse team fell behind early and was never able to recover, losing, 9-5, to No. 16/9 Penn in the semifinal of the Ivy League Tournament on Friday in Philadelphia.
With the win, the first-seeded Quakers (9-6, 6-1 Ivy) advanced to Sunday’s championship matchup, where they fell to Dartmouth, 6-4.
Friday’s loss snapped a five-game winning streak for the Crimson (9-7, 5-2).
“We were in a good mental state heading into the game,” said co-captain Melanie Baskind, who led the Crimson with two goals and three ground balls. “We obviously knew that Penn is a very good team. At the same time, we had confidence in ourselves. Our last two games against them were very close. We felt good about our gameplan, and we were confident that if we played well we would have come out on top.”
Penn was led by sophomore Courtney Tomchik, who scored three goals in the contest—including the opening two tallies—and by junior Meredith Cain, who scored three consecutive goals to close out a dominant first half for the Quakers.
As has been a recurring problem for Harvard all season, the Crimson was plagued by another slow start. Depite holding the 10-7 shot advantage, Harvard went into halftime trailing, 6-1.
“I think its tough to say [why we had a slow start],” Baskind said. “Its easy to say a lack of focus, a lack of energy, but we prepare for games the same way. [Penn] just came out stronger and faster than we did.”
Harvard was continually thwarted by Penn goalie Emily Leitner, who stopped three of the four shots she faced in the first half. Leitner finished with 10 saves and allowed five goals in sixty minutes.
“Our coaches were very adamant on how the goalie was a lefty and that we needed to shoot to her right and not shoot at her feet which is something we were constantly doing,” said senior Jess Halpern, who finished with one goal on one shot. “I think we got a little flustered, and we weren’t sticking to what our coaches were telling us.”
Halpern was the only Crimson player to beat Leitner in the first half, scoring with 16:53 to play to halt a 3-0 Penn run.
“The problem was that we weren’t finishing our shots,” said Baskind, whose squad connected on just five of 27 shot attempts on the night. “Statistically we hung with them all over the field, but we just had a lot of trouble placing the ball around [Leitner], who played very well.”
Despite facing a five-goal halftime deficit, Harvard believed it had the ability to come back in the second frame.
“The focus at halftime was just making sure we were taking good shots,” Baskind said. “I felt like we were in the game for all sixty minutes.”
Coming out of the break, Quakers junior Maddie Poplawski finished a free-position opportunity to stetch Penn’s lead to six.
Baskind provided the Crimson with some hope, responding with back-to-back goals.