Coming off of a 2013 season that saw the team win just three games, the Harvard women’s lacrosse team improved its record greatly in 2014, going 9-7 and gaining a berth in the Ivy League Tournament for the first time in two years.
One of the key differences between the schedules in 2013 and 2014 was the number of home games that the Crimson played. Last year, Harvard competed in front of its home crowd in just three of its 14 contests. But this season, eight of the team’s 16 games took place on Soldiers Field or at Harvard Stadium.
The first half of the campaign saw the team struggle against top-20 teams such as Stanford, Penn, Syracuse, and Boston College. The team’s loss to Princeton on April 12 was the first time that Harvard fell to an unranked team, going down, 15-6, in a pivotal game at home.
In regular season conference play, the Crimson ended the year narrowly above .500, going 4-3 against opponents in the Ancient Eight. The team was able to counter losses to Penn, Princeton, and Dartmouth with wins against Cornell, Yale, Brown, and Columbia.
The team’s success garnered a top-four spot in the conference and a bid to the Ivy League Tournament, in which Harvard was matched up with Penn once again. Unlike the previous contest between the two teams—when the Crimson fell, 9-4—the tournament game stretched into double overtime, but Harvard ultimately went down, 10-9, after almost two hours of lacrosse.
The competitive manner in which the season concluded served as proof of how far the team came in one year.
“That was honestly the best way [the season could have ended],” co-captain Chelsey Newman said. “Staying competitive in that game against a team that we haven’t had the best success [against] gives the team a lot of hope for when they play them again next year.”
Newman was among the three seniors graduating from the team this season, along with fellow co-captain Kyleigh Keating and attacker Chloe Soukas. Together, the seniors contributed 22 points and 18 goals.
However, it was the underclassmen who stole the show this year. Freshman attacker Marisa Romeo led the Crimson in scoring for the first four games of the season, scoring as many as five goals during the course of one game. Romeo ended the year with a league-leading 48 goals, amassing 58 points and playing all 16 games of the season.
Sophomore attacker Audrey Todd showed great improvement from freshman year and ended the campaign with 29 goals and 36 points. Todd had a hat trick in three consecutive contests and led Harvard with 38 draw controls on her way to being named to the All-Ivy first team for the second year in a row.
One of the team’s major goals coming into the season was to improve the number of draw controls the squad won each game. By doing so, Harvard could have the opportunity to take the advantage in possession minutes, potentially leading to more scoring drives.
The team was able to maintain its consistency despite facing injuries and adversity throughout the season.
After a knee injury sidelined freshman midfielder Maeve McMahon, classmate Megan Hennessey was called from attacker to play at midfield. She stepped up to the challenge, scoring 23 goals on year.
The balance that the offense brought to the field each game allowed there to be many scoring options that opposing defenses struggled to defend.
“Everyone thought that we were a really young team, and we were,” Newman said. “But we needed to prove that it was going to help us on the field.”
Throughout the season, the squad focused on maintaining physicality each game in order to stay competitive against every opponent.
“Everyone was set on overcoming all of the challenges that we faced throughout the year,” Newman said. “I think making it to the tournament was a huge accomplishment that will be a great stepping stone and a great experience for the young players going into next year.”
—Staff writer Ariel Smolik-Valles can be reached at email@example.com.