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After a mediocre week that included a 1-1 tie to Penn and a 2-1 loss to Springfield, Harvard's field hockey team (5-2-1 overall, 2-0-1 Ivy) is back in the high life again.
In an impressive display of accurate passing and steady stickwork, the Crimson dismissed Cornell (3-5-1 overall, 1-3 Ivy) this morning at Cumnock Field, 3-0, to remain undefeated in the Ivy League.
"This is a really big turnaround for us," junior defender Kristen Fowler said. "We were a lot more fired up today. Being at home with an Ivy League game helped."
Led by junior Co-Captain Ceci Clark and classmate Sandra Whyte, Harvard's defense was stellar; Cornell had no (that's right, zero) shots on goal and managed only three penalty corners the whole game. With consumate teamwork, Clark and Whyte controlled the backfield with excellent timing and well-placed clears.
"Defensively, people stuck to their tasks," Harvard Coach Sue Caples said. "Sandra and Ceci are very, very key. They distributed the ball well. They have great stick skills."
And Harvard's offense showed its colors as well, with three unanswered goals, 12 corners and 27 shots.
"We proved that we really do have an offense," junior forward Loren Ambinder said. "We had good possesion and really good passing."
The Crimson's initial goal came with 24:40 left in the first half when sophomore Rachel Burke deflected a rebound from a shot by Ambinder. Despite six corners and 11 shots on goal, Burke's was the lone tally for the first half.
Leading the game, 1-0, Harvard returned to the second half with a vengeance. After three penalty corners, the Crimson made good on its fourth attempt. With textbook execution, Whyte passed the ball from the top of the circle back to the waiting Ambinder, who deftly scored past Cornell netminder Yanaka Bernal.
"We had moments of brilliance in the second half," Caples said. "When our passing game is on, we're unstoppable."
Freshman foward Ann Kennon tallied her first Harvard career goal to end the scorefest with 6:54 remaining in the game.
"Anne [Van Dykum] shot on goal, I got the rebound, dribbled it around the goalie and just scooped it in," Kennon said. "It felt really good to be able to contribute. We played 10 times better today than we did at Springfield."
As the Crimson's success brought in Cornell's fifth loss for the season, goalie Bernel was the Big Red's only saving grace. With acrobatics that often made Mary Lou Retton look stiff, the Cornell Co-Captain kept the game from becoming a massacre, making 19 saves in the match.
In addition, Bernal caught the Harvard offense off-guard by wearing special padding that causes high rebounds and strong clears.
"The goalie was wearing `moon boots,'" Harvard Coach Caples said. "When you kick the ball, the clears are really big. When you're on turf, the goalie can start an offensive drive. It took us a little time to adjust to that but we eventually did."
Following Wednesday's disappointing loss to Springfield, Caples focused more on fundamentals in practice. The change of strategy worked; Harvard's excellent passing combinations on transition kept Cornell's offense on the run and out of the game.
"At different points in the season you have to go back to basics," Caples said. "We've been working very, very hard in practice."
"We had been making a lot of mistakes fielding the ball and everyone was a little frustrated," Clark said. "So we went back to our fundamentals and it paid off."
With a tie against Penn and victories over Yale and Cornell, the Crimson is hoping for a strong Ivy finish.
"It's looking good," Clark said. "We just have to keep our intensity up and take it one game at a time."
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