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For the second year in a row, the Harvard field hockey team enters its final game with its first Ivy League title on the line. And for the second year in a row, the Crimson will face Brown to decide its fate.
But the similarities end there. When the Crimson (9-4-1 overall, 4-0-1 Ivy), ranked 20th in the nation, steps onto Cumnock Field at 2 p.m. today, they will be facing a vastly inferior Brown squad.
While Brown defeated Harvard last year to clinch the Ivy League title, the Bruins (2-9-3, 1-2-2) can only play the role of spoiler this season.
With a win, the Crimson would come out on top in its race with Penn (4-0-2 Ivy). Harvard tied the Quakers, 1-1, in a September meeting in Philadelphia.
Ironically, it was Brown which tied Penn last Sunday, giving the Crimson a shot at an outright title.
"We can't go in there with the attitude that we're going to walk all over Brown," junior Sandra Whyte said, "but we're very confident in ourselves and the way we've been playing."
The revenge factor does not rest solely with Harvard. Four years ago, the roles were reversed, and Harvard spoiled the Ivy title hopes of Brown with an upset victory on the final day of the season.
"Brown has nothing to lose," Harvard Coach Sue Caples said. "They can go in there with reckless abandon."
The Crimson will look to the leadership of Co-Captain Anne van Dykum and the strong offensive play of Whyte (10 goals, five assists), who is coming off of a hat trick Saturday against Dartmouth.
"This is the best team we've had in my four years," said van Dykum, the squad's lone senior. "This would be a great way to end my senior year."
Rachel Burke has seven goals for the Crimson and Loren Ambinder has six. Goalie Lisa Yadao has surrendered only one goal per game.
The Crimson will have to watch out for Brown forward Chris Montero, last year's Ivy League Rookie of the Year and the team's leading scorer with five goals. Montero plays in front of a strong midfield and All-Ivy goalie Sarah Lamont, who is surrendering 1.42 goals per game.
Although the Bruins have had a poor year, their play has picked up recently and they are capable of causing problems for the Crimson. In their last nine games, the Bruins are 1-5-3--and all the losses have been by one goal. In addition to tying Penn, Brown has taken three of its other Ivy opponents to overtime.
"We've been kind of beat-up this year," Brown Coach Wendy Anderson said. "And we've had a few mental lapses in critical situations. It will have to be a team effort for us to be able to shut Harvard down."
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