The final analysis of the Harvard field hockey team's 1980 season depends purely on perspective. As losing seasons go, it was a success. As successful seasons go, it was a disaster.
Consider the squad's final mark of 4-8-4. Not one of the four victories came against a Division I school. The Crimson did win with relative ease, but the victims--Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern and Bowdoin--performed similar death acts all season long against nobodys like Boston State and AIC.
On the other hand, nationally ranked teams were responsible for seven of the eight defeats. And the final loss, a 2-1 heartbreaker to New Hampshire, came in the first round of the regional playoffs to the eventual New England champion and number two team in the country. Harvard even led, 1-0, at halftime, and had actually tied the same UNH squad, 0-0, earlier in the season.
All year, the stickwomen played their best against the best but managed to come up just short each time. Against the local opponents that dot the non-league slate they racked up impressive statistics (like outshooting B.C., 28-2) but couldn't play consistently. And when matched against the middling squads that round out the schedule, the team played average, up-and-down games--with like results.
One such contest turned the season in the wrong direction. On October 11, the Crimson--then 3-3-1 and boasting two wins and a tie in the previous four outings--struggled to a 1-1 tie with an inferior Cornell contingent. The deadlock halted whatever momentum the squad had managed to amass and set the stage for the horrendous, 0-7-1 season-ending slide that followed the annihilation of B.C.
Had Harvard held its 1-0 lead against the Big Red and whipped the Eagles the following Tuesday (as it did, 6-0), it would have traveled to Springfield on October 16 with a 5-3-1 mark, and possibly, a mention in the national polls. More importantly, the squad would have been riding a three-game winning streak: it never won two in a row all year long) and might have converted that momentum into more offensive output against the Maroons.
As it turned out, the momentum wasn't there and the Crimson managed only six shots in perhaps the season's most forgettable performance.
The team's best outing--the season finale--made the dour, eight-game winless streak that closed the campaign a bit less bitter. And despite their record, the stick-women received an opportunity to return to post-season play after a year's absence because not enough qualified teams applied to the EAIAW Division I tournament. Of course, with a 4-7-4 record entering the event, they were the last seed and played their first-round game against the top-seeded Wildcats, whom they had tied in Durham September 27.
In typical fashion for this topsy-turvy season, the Crimson almost pulled off the upset. Kate Martin, who led the team in scoring with 12 goals (tying a school record) tallied eight minutes into the first half, and the goal held up until midway through the second.
When UNH's Carla Hesler flipped home a penalty shot to even the score, however, the momentum slipped away from the stickwomen and Wildcat Janet Greene slammed the door on the season with her game-winning goal minutes later, turning yet another fine outing into a loss.
As usual, freshmen played extensively throughout the season. The most impressive, Lili Pew and Beth Mullen, solidified the defense with co-captain Chris Sailer and junior back Sara LeBlond. Goalie Juliet Lamont saw sporadic duty but played every minute of the last three contests, and her flashes of brilliance in the season encore may indicate future stardom.
Up front, senior Sue Field and sophomore Jennifer White chipped in four and three goals respectively to complement Martin, and sophomore forward/link Maureen Finn contributed a team-leading seven assists, mostly on penalty corners.
But the team's most consistent play came from the midfield. Link Annie Velie, the squad's most effective player, turned in her quiet but rock-steady performances game after game. Pew and freshmen Betsy Torg paired with the Sudbury native at various times, making the usual mistakes rookies make but playing aggressive defense and, especially Pew, imaginative offense.
For the Crimson to be successful, another scorer must be found to shift some of the emphasis from Martin (whose output suffered when double-teamed), and the team must learn to play its kind of game against any opponent. The losses to graduation will be heavy (Field, Velie, Sailer, goalie Betty Ippolito and forward and inspirational leader Elaine Kellogg), but the nucleus of young talent is there, 1980 was supposed to be the year for the Harvard field hockey team, but now success may have to wait until this current crop matures and is joined by another bunch of new faces.
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