Great Expectations

Hopes are high for a young but talented Crimson squad, which looks to make a return to the NCAA tournament

women season preview
Robert L. Ruffins

Josephine Pucci 2 sophomore defender.

The Harvard women’s hockey team enters the 2010-11 season with the same ambition it always has.

“Our season goal every year is a national championship,” junior defenseman Hilary Hayssen said. “We set the bar high because you have to have high expectations for yourself.”

Harvard—which enters the season ranked second in the highly competitive ECAC—graduated four of its top six point scorers.

But the cupboard is not bare for the Crimson.

A talented crop of freshmen and ample returning talent should fill the holes left by the graduates, including forwards Kate Buesser, Liza Ryabkina and Katherine Chute, and defensemen Leanna Coskren.

A pair of juniors should figure prominently into the equation: forward Jillian Dempsey and defenseman Josephine Pucci. Dempsey led the team in points last year with 28, and Pucci led the team with an impressive +/- of +24. They also combined for five game-winning goals.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle Harvard will have to overcome will be its youth. The roster includes 18 women, five of whom are freshmen, and only one senior, captain Alisa Baumgartner. A strong group of juniors will have to step up and take on an increased leadership role.

“The biggest thing we can do is support Alisa,” junior goaltender Laura Bellamy said. “There are seven of us, but we’re very well represented positionally. We’re hoping for a lot from Kaitlin Spurling, Dempsey, and Margaret Chute offensively. Defensively, three of our six defensemen have two years of experience … The best, biggest thing we have is [the ability to] represent all of the positions.”

Having upperclassman leadership spread across different positions should help the talented group of freshmen adjust—something they will have to do quickly.

“We’re really fortunate this year to have six strong defensemen,” Pucci said. “The two freshmen that came in—they have a lot of experience, but they’re going to need to step up and not play like freshmen.”

The five rookies, including defensemen Michelle Picard and Sarah Edney, will have to do more than just integrate themselves if the Harvard women hope to achieve their lofty goals.

“We don’t have freshmen,” Hayssen said wryly. “The freshmen can’t be freshmen. We’re too young for that.”

Luckily for the Crimson, its youngest class is seasoned both in high school and national competition.

“We have a great recruiting class coming in with two national team defenseman, two forwards, and a goaltender,” Bellamy said. “They’ve all been doing well. The national team experience will definitely help us a lot.”

Another interesting feature of this year’s team is its roster size. Having only 18 players means more ice time for everyone. The small numbers have also made the team tight-knit and cohesive.