PHILADELPHIA--Losing is never easy to bear, but when you lose to the best team in the nation, it takes some of the sting out of it.
The Harvard women's lacrosse team can find solace in the fact that the squad that eliminated it from the NCAA Tournament is undefeated and the top-ranked team in the land.
Temple (18-0) edged the Crimson, 13-8, Saturday in the NCAA semifinals here at Geasey Field. The Lady Owls will play in the championship game next weekend.
The loss closed out an outstanding season for Harvard. The squad posted a 12-3 record, and reached the NCAA semifinals for the first time since 1981. In addition, the Crimson went 6-0 in the Ivy League to nab its first outright crown since 1985.
"The year was a big uphill climb," Harvard Co-Captain Cindi Ersek said. "We had a tough first week of the season, and we climbed up. We came back from behind in a lot of games. We worked really hard."
But none of those feats mattered to Temple, which had defeated Harvard, earlier in the year here, 13-8. The Lady Owls were not going to look past the Crimson for a moment.
"We have about six seniors with a lot of experience," Temple Coach Tina Sloan Green said. "They know that you can't take any team lightly."
"We played them very early in their season," Temple senior Mandee Moore said, "and we knew they had improved tremendously. They played a real good game."
The Lady Owls came out with all pistons firing and dominated the start of the first half. With the help of its speedy attackers, Temple jumped out to a 5-0 lead and never looked back.
Sophomore Aamina Thornton beat Harvard netminder Kelly Dermody to put the Lady Owls on the scoreboard just three minutes into the match. Moore and Kim Lambdin each did the same less than a minute later. When Gail Cummings and Moore tallied again, the Crimson found itself looking at a five-goal deficit midway through the first half.
"They're just tough on attack," Harvard Coach Carole Kleinfelder said. "You can't let their shooters have the ball."
Everyone knew that Cummings--who had scored an unbelievable 88 goals in Temple's first 17 games--was a dangerous shooter. Harvard defender Maggie Vaughan drew the unenviable task of stopping Cummings, and actually held her to just a pair of goals.
Although Harvard was able to keep one scorer under tabs, two others emerged. Using their outstanding speed, Moore netted four goals--all in the first half--and Lambdin chipped in a hat trick.
"We stopped their best scorer," Harvard senior Kate Felsen said, "but Mandee [Moore] and [Kim] Lambdin made up for it."
The Harvard offense soon turned things around and started to come back. Sophomore attack Char Joslin scored twice to cut the lead to 5-2. Then Ersek, who bravely played in a shoulder sling to support her dislocated shoulder, broke through the Temple defense to score an unassisted goal.
Moore scored her third goal to make the score 6-3, but the Crimson continued its barrage of Temple goalkeeper Jill Marple. After Harvard Co-Captain Leelee Groome's shot hit the post. Felsen made a steal and scored to cut the lead to two. But Marple stopped the comeback with a fine save on a shot by junior Lisi Balliere.
But Temple scored two goals just before the half ended to extend its lead to 8-4.
"We just couldn't make the difference up," Kleinfelder said.