For large periods of the second half of Sunday’s game against No. 17 Boston College, the Harvard field hockey team played even with its more heralded opponents. But the Crimson was unable to convert its bevy of offensive chances into goals to surmount an early deficit, ultimately falling, 3-0, at Jordan Field.
The first half was entirely controlled by the Eagles, who outshot Harvard, 15-2, and amassed seven penalty corners to the Crimson’s zero, looking the part of a nationally-ranked power with sure touches, brisk passes, and large stretches of possession.
Boston College opened the scoring just five minutes into the game. Crisp back-and-forth passing moved the Eagles into the circle and won them a penalty corner, which was promptly dispatched off a redirection by Boston College’s Chapin Duke over the outstretched left arm of goalkeeper Cynthia Tassopoulos.
The Eagles doubled their advantage with just under four minutes remaining in the half, as Emma Plasteras played a neat one-two in the circle with teammate Nicole Shuster, found an empty pocket of space upon receiving the return pass, and slapped the ball high over the shoulder of Tassopoulos from close range.
Harvard’s first-half chances were limited to a shot each from sophomore Kaitlyn Boudah and junior Caitlin Rea, both of which sailed wide of the goal. The Crimson’s attack simply could not build up effectively from the midfield, not connecting on the many long passes played down the wings.
But Harvard came out of the break—and a spirited huddle—with renewed energy. From the start of the period, the Crimson’s counterattack worked with particular effectiveness, as the Harvard forwards broke quickly down the field after winning the ball back from Boston College in the midfield.
"That’s what changed [between the halves]: the energy and the work rate that everyone was willing to do for each other," coach Tjerk van Herwaarden said. "If we’re not careful and just go for it, I think we’re going to be a very good team. We just have to be a little bit more fortunate and a little more effective in the circle."
It was the lack of that finishing touch in the circle that prevented the Crimson from mounting a serious comeback. The Harvard forwards created a number of odd-man rushes off the counterattack and managed four shots on net, but Eagles goalkeeper Leah Settipane stopped them all. Other times, promising moves were negated by a poor touch in the circle, whether on a mishandled pass or a failure to challenge the defense on penalty corners.
"It comes down to practice," van Herwaarden said. "We just have to keep coming out here working hard and understand the differences we have to make. It’s about the details: a little footwork, getting a little bit stronger, doing things a little bit faster, and that’s all about practice."
Near the end of the second half, Boston College added its final goal, a soft deflection by AshLeigh Sebia off of a penalty corner. Still, the Crimson was encouraged by its ability to get the upper hand, even for a brief spell, on a team of Boston College’s caliber.
"We wanted to come out like we had nothing to lose and give them a great game, and I thought that we did it," sophomore Noel Painter said. "I don’t think the score reflects how we played. We gave them a run for their money."
Despite the signs of life on offense, Harvard has struggled to put points on the scoreboard. The Crimson has scored just two goals in four games this season. But Painter was not worried, saying that the breaks would eventually go her team’s way.
"We weren’t able to convert, but that’s the next step, being able to put it in the cage," Painter said. "Part of being a forward is having amnesia, forgetting about all the misses, but I just need to stay focused and stay confident and the balls will go in."
Tassopoulos made her second straight appearance in goal after junior Jenn Hatfield started in her place against Sacred Heart on Sept. 3, but van Herwaarden said that he has not yet made a final decision on a starter for the duration of the season, though he plans to do so in the near future.
—Staff writer Andrew R. Mooney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.