When the 20th-ranked Harvard field hockey team visits 17th-ranked Springfield tonight, one of the two squads will drop from contention for a berth in the NCAA national championship tournament Just what will happen to the winner is far less clear.
Even if the 10-2-2 Crimson manages what would prove only a minor upset, the stick women still face Saturday's season finale with Yale and some anxious waiting for a selection committee decision before they know if they will be included in the 16-team tournament.
Likewise, even if the 11-4 Wildcats hold off the Harvard challenge, Springfield's troubles won't be over. The Wildcats close out their season with showdowns below the Mason-Dixon line against powerhouses Old Dominion, North Carolina and Maryland.
Harvard and Springfield have more in common than the need to be leading at tonight's final whistle. Each team relies on a junior goaltender and a senior goal scorer.
Crimson netminder Juliet Lamont has shut out half of the stickwomen's 14 opponents this season Her Springfield opponent, Carol Kinsella, has allowed only an average of one goal per game.
Co-Captain Kate Martin has tallied 32 goals in a Harvard uniform, earning her a share of the school's career scoring record Martin was selected to play in this summer's National Sports Festival, joining the nation's top players, including a Western Mass stickwoman, Springfield's Sheren Grenese.
What Martin in to the Crimson offense, Grenese is to the Wildest attack Although Grenese plays midfielder, the Danvers Mass, native leads her squad in scoring.
"She hasn't had a bad game yet." Wildest Coach Dotti Zenaty said last night.
Grenese's consistency has guided a relatively inexperienced starting lineup with three freshmen and four sophomores to 10 straight victories, including an upset of third ranked University of Connecticut, team that handed Harvard a 3-1 setback October 7.
Still, the Crimson enters tonight's fray with no shortage of confidence. "Man for man, we're just as good if not better than they are," Martin said. The Harvard co-captain may have a personal interest in winning, as Springfield's Zenaty coached Mart.., during the National Sports Festival.
Crimson Coach Edie Mabrey said earlier this week, "I don't think they should be ranked ahead of us. We can beat Springfield, We have to prove it."
THE NOTEBOOK: Martin and Grenese got to know each other off the field as well as on it "She and I almost missed a plane together," Martin recalls. The 8:30 p.m. game will be Harvard's first time under the lights this year... Springfield's trip South may help its tournament chances by giving the Wildcats a chance to impress selection committee members outside of the Northeast. Aside from its pre-season trip of Ireland the Crimson has traveled no further than Philadelphia.