With the disappointment of not meeting expectations last season weighing heavily, the Harvard field hockey team is already looking forward to the fall with a new mentality and concrete goals in mind.
“Last year was more of a transition period,” said incoming co-captain Caroline Code of the team’s 2012 season, referencing the addition of then-new coach Tjerk van Herwaarden.
“We had to start over with fundamentals and smaller things,” Code added. “This year, we started to see a lot more progress in bigger games and strategies. Our goals [for 2014] are stretching the field, pulling wide, and just having more tactics.”
The Crimson ended its 2013 campaign with an 8-9 record, a marked improvement from the squad’s 3-13 record the previous season.
Harvard also posted a 2-5 record against Ivy League competition, with a pair of wins bookending its Ancient Eight schedule.
After early losses during its nonconference competition, the Crimson opened Ivy League play with a 3-2 win over Yale, which was a standout victory according to incoming co-captain and junior midfielder Caitlin Rea.
“When we get pumped and we know we have nothing to lose, we work well under the pressure of good teams,” Rea said.
Van Herwaarden said the game against the Bulldogs was especially important for the seniors, who had never defeated Yale.
With goals coming from three different players, the game helped the entire team realize its potential early in the season.
An internationally recognized field hockey coach, van Herwaarden recently led Team USA’s women’s field hockey program in the 2014 Champions Challenge, in which the team earned a gold medal at the beginning of May.
“He tries to incorporate some of the things he learns from [coaching the US women’s team] into our programs,” Rea said. “He’s good at keeping us accountable, making us think about what we were doing [when we won], and getting us in the right mind frame again.”
Harvard’s second Ivy League win came in its final contest of the season against Columbia, its first victory over the Lions since 2007.
Although the Crimson had a slow start, which set up a one-goal deficit, the team tied Columbia during regulation, 1-1.
Sophomore Elizabeth Jacobson scored her second goal of the contest for the win, netting the score in the first two minutes of overtime.
“The game against Columbia wasn’t a pretty game, but [was decided by] hard work, overall mentality, and which team wanted it more,” said van Herwaarden of the 2-1 overtime victory. “We tied the game up when we were playing a man down with three minutes left on the clock. There was a real desire to win.”
Jacobson scored six goals this season and recorded the game-winner in overtime against Fairfield in a nonconference victory.
Forward Marissa Belleza was the Crimson’s leading scorer this year with 12 goals, twice as many as any other teammate.
The freshman also posted a team-high four assists, garnering second team All-Ivy accolades in her first season for Harvard.
“I think this year’s freshmen really pushed the upperclassmen to step up,” Code said. “As a freshman coming in, you’re always trying to get a spot. They came in strong and fit, talented and skilled, and just having that extra push made everyone else want to work to their potential as well.”
While she watched the freshmen improve their game on the field this past year, Rea hopes to encourage their vocal presence next year.
“They’ve stepped it up play-wise, but now they’re stepping it up with communication, too, which is huge,” Rea said. “Being in the backfield and having a freshman shout at you that you’re not on your mark is what we need. And the fact that that’s happening now is so helpful. If you see something, you need to let people know.”
The Crimson players typically arrive on campus right before their season begins, leaving each athlete with the responsibility of staying in shape over the summer and preparing for the year ahead.
“We want to work on getting the team in the right mindset,” Rea said.
“We have the capabilities,” she added. “We bring it so well in some games, and then in other games, we lose it. We’re trying to get a constant mindset coming into every game.”
—Staff writer Orlea L. Miller can be reached at email@example.com.