In one of its most important games of the season, the Harvard women’s lacrosse team survived a tough challenge from one of the Ivy League’s bottom dwellers to clinch a spot in this year’s Ivy League Tournament for the third time in the program’s history.
In a game which saw four lead change and five ties, the Crimson (9-5, 4-2 Ivy) defeated Ancient Eight rival Columbia (3-9, 0-6 Ivy), 12-10, at the Robert K. Kraft Field to obtain its spot in the tournament and send the Lions to their sixth straight Ivy League defeat.
Harvard used a balanced offense versus Columbia, as sophomore midfielder Audrey Todd and freshman midfielder Megan Hennessey scored three goals apiece to lead the Crimson.
Freshman attacker Marisa Romeo, junior attacker Sophia Capone and sophomore attacker Alexis Nicolia contributed two goals each to complete the Harvard attack. Nicolia also collected five ground balls for the Crimson, who held a 23-18 advantage in the ground game.
“It was a great team effort,” coach Lisa Miller said. “So many teams are concentrating on Audrey and Marisa, setting early doubles. It’s become critical that everybody chips in.”
The match saw Columbia get out to a fast start, as it scored the opening goal two minutes into the match to put pressure on sophomore goalkeeper Kelly Weis and the Harvard defense.
The Crimson would strike back quickly, as Hennessey would equalize the game at one a mere 40 seconds later on an unassisted play. Capone then gave Harvard its first lead of the day on a free position shot.
Columbia would strike back with a pair of goals by freshman midfielder Quinn Taylor and junior midfielder Katie Angulo to take back the lead. But senior Ashley Rinere would soon see yellow, as the referee gave her a yellow card for an illegal foul on Weis.
The woman-up situation saw Harvard level the game at three, as Romeo would score from a free position shot, before Todd would recover the lead for the Crimson with yet another free position attempt.
The match continued in a similar fashion throughout the first period, as Todd and Hennessey each got the ball in the back of the net for the second time to give Harvard a 6-5 lead at the break, with Taylor and freshman defender Caroline Joy keeping the Lions close and making the game difficult for the Crimson.
“It was a tough game,” Miller said. “I though Columbia played very well. They were scrappy, they were tough, and they really went after the ground balls. They had nothing to lose.”
Though Columbia would come out of the half with Taylor scoring the third goal of the match to level the score at six, the Crimson would go on 5-1 run in the span of 15 minutes to go up by four on the Lions.
The free position shot continued to be a valuable weapon for Harvard throughout this run as three of its five goals in this span came from this shot. The run also served to further illustrate the balance of the Crimson attack, as four different players scored.
Columbia would make things interesting near the end of the match, as Taylor led the Lions on a 3-1 run near the end of the second stanza, but it ultimately proved to be too late for Columbia, as Harvard claimed its fourth Ivy League victory of the season.
In addition to demonstrating a balanced offense, the Crimson victory demonstrate one of its most potent assets this year: the youth of the team. According to Miller, the youth of the team has added to the impressiveness of its performance throughout the season.
“I’m really happy with the position we’re in,” Miller said. “We’re starting 10 freshmen and sophomores, and everyone else on the bench is helping out. At the beginning of the year we knew we were going to start [many] young players and we’ve worked really hard throughout the year.”
The attack has particularly shown the importance of youth, as a freshman has led the team in scoring in 12 of the 14 matches of the year, led by freshman Romeo.
The Syracuse, N.Y. native leads the team with 44 goals and 50 points on the season and has had a point in every match so far this year. Fellow freshman Hennessey has chipped in 27 points, while sophomores Alexis Nicolia and Audrey Todd have also contributed over 25 points.
The victory keeps Harvard tied for third in the Ancient Eight with Cornell with one game left to play in the league schedule. The Crimson sit half a game behind Penn for second place and a home seed in the first round; two Penn losses and a Harvard victory in its regular season finale versus Dartmouth would give the Crimson the second seed.
Before that however, Miller claimed the team looks forward to getting some rest after a long stretch which saw them achieve their goal.
“It was a tough stretch,” Miller said. “We played six games over the last couple of weeks and we’re tired. We just finished a long road stretch; to come out 5-1 and in the position that we’re in, it’s pretty [good].”