The game began well for the Harvard field hockey team.
But when it was all over Saturday, the Crimson squad trudged off Soldiers Field and away from a 2-1 loss to Princeton that nearly knocked it out of the race for the Ivy League championship.
With its second Ivy defeat, Harvard (3-7-1 overall, 2-2 Ivy) dropped a full game behind league-leading Penn (3-0-2 Ivy) which tied Yale, 0-0, Saturday in New Haven, Conn.
Although victorious, Princeton (2-2-1 Ivy) was eliminated from winning the Ancient Eight crown by the Penn-Yale deadlock.
Had Harvard defeated the Tigers, it would have pulled into a tie for first. As it stands, however, any Penn win or tie--or Harvard tie or loss--will climinate the stickwomen from contention.
Early in Saturday's contest, it looked like the Crimson might fool the critics--who at the start of the season predicted a last-place finish for the young Cantab squad--and pull into a tie for the league lead.
With five minutes gone in the first half, Crimson midfielder Bambi Taylor took a corner pass from Linda Runyon and slapped a shot on Tiger goalie Angela Tucci.
Tucci blocked the bullet but Crimson forward Kate Felsen, charging from outside the penalty stripe, scooped it up in front of the Princeton goal and slammed it past the stunned netminder.
Felsen's goal--her second of the year--was greeted with biosterous applause from the 175 spectators crowded on the sidelines.
But the applause proved premature as Princeton followed with an offensive show of its own.
Crimson goalie Denise Katsias had five saves in the first half--including a charging block of Tiger midfielder Cara Gottardi's rocket from 10 feet at 9:43. But neither she nor Taylor--who made a diving try--could get to forward Sue Gouchoe's scoop off a corner pass that flew into the left corner of the Harvard goal with 16 minutes left in the first half.
Princeton sealed the victory with 12 minutes left in the game.
Tiger Co-Captain Sue McCarter took a corner pass just outside the penalty circle, snuck by Crimson forward Gia Barresi and flicked the ball through the Crimson defense and into the net.
"The first shot that went in was a good goal," Katsias said. "The second one shouldn't have gone in. I was there. I just didn't get to it."
Despite its lack of offensive opportunity--Harvard had only seven shots and four penalty corners on the afternoon--the Crimson came close to scoring several times.