The Harvard women’s lacrosse team came out firing against Brown on Saturday, racing to a 5-0 lead in the early going and never looking back.
With its fastest start of the season, the Crimson (6-4, 3-1 Ivy) defeated the Bears (8-3, 2-2), 10-4, in a key Ivy League matchup at Harvard Stadium.
Sophomore midfielder Audrey Todd got the scoring going early, tallying the first two goals of the game just four minutes into the contest. She then notched her third score of the game and the fourth for Harvard 10 minutes later as she led the early scoring barrage for the hosts.
Despite the offensive fireworks to open the game for the Crimson, the star of the game may well have been the Harvard team defense.
“It was a good, solid team effort,” Harvard coach Lisa Miller said. “It starts with your mark-ups…. [We] helped and rotated pretty well. We scouted them, but the bottom line is the kids have to go in and make the plays, and they did.”
With three games left in the conference season, the Crimson sits just above the Bears in a two-way tie for second place with Princeton in the Ancient Eight standings.
Brown entered the contest averaging more than 13 goals per game on the season, but the Harvard defense remained stout, doubling quickly and holding the Bears to one first half goal as the Crimson entered halftime with a 6-1 advantage.
Although there were moments throughout when Brown appeared to climb back, Harvard routinely answered and maintained control of the game.
The Bears came to life late in the first half, breaking through for their first goal and creating multiple scoring chances. Co-captain midfielder Kyleigh Keating scored with 13 seconds left in the opening frame to put the Crimson right back in the driver’s seat.
“We always talk about momentum, so once the momentum was going their way, we knew that we had to come together and get the next draw, or get a turnover on the defensive end…[to] really stop their momentum,” co-captain attacker Chelsey Newman said.
From the opening whistle in the second half, Brown appeared rejuvenated by the halftime break. Senior attacker Danielle Mastro put the Bears on the board first in the final period, scoring 30 seconds in.
After senior attacker Grace Healy scored to pull the Bears within three goals, it appeared the Harvard lead might be slipping away, but the Crimson bounced back again as freshman midfielder Megan Hennessey answered less than a minute later.
“We’re getting better, it’s just responding to runs. It’s a game of momentum, and I thought [in previous games] we let some teams get away from us,” Miller said. “Now they’re getting better at managing that and managing how they feel about it, so I think that’s just [a result of] a little bit more game experience.”
One of the most important assets of this Harvard team has been its youth. The Crimson’s five leading goal scorers are all underclassmen. Freshman Marisa Romeo capped off Harvard’s opening 5-0 run with her team-leading 33rd goal of the season.
As it has throughout the season, Harvard utilized a balance attack that saw seven different players record goals. Five players tallied once each, and Newman added the last two scores of the game to seal the win for Harvard.
“It’s a pretty balanced unit, we run a motion offense that just lets everybody be a threat, and we expect everybody to be a threat,” Miller said.
On Saturday, the biggest threat for the Crimson was Todd, who completed a hat trick for the second game in a row. She has six goals in Harvard’s last two games despite averaging just a goal a game in the team’s first eight this season.
The win kept the Crimson in a tie with Princeton for second place in the Ivy League, and continued Harvard’s dominance over unranked teams this season. The Crimson has won all six of its games against unranked opponents, but Harvard yet to beat a ranked team, going 0-4 in such matchups so far this season.
“Now we’re definitely in a transition period in our season, but we are young, so it was hard to get our confidence early on when we had some of those games,” Newman said. “But we play a tough schedule for a reason, and I think even though we lost those it helped us.”