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It's payback time for the Harvard field hockey team.
On Wednesday, the Crimson exorcised the demons of a loss in last year's Ivy title game and took its first Ivy crown with a 2-0 defeat of Brown.
Harvard (10-4-1) will be seeking more of the same today, as it faces Springfield (16-4-2) in the opening round of the ECAC Tournament in Easton, Pa. The two teams last met October 3, when the Chiefs handed the Crimson a 1-0 loss.
When the teams meet again today, the stakes will be much greater than they were in October. An opening-round victory will put the winner in Sunday's championship game against Princeton (7-7) or host Lafayette (17-3).
"The revenge factor will be there," Harvard Coach Sue Caples said. "But we're just looking to play a strong game. If we play strongly, the results will follow."
The Crimson will have more than vengeance on its side today. They will also have the natural grass of Lafayette's Metzgar Field. This year's Harvard team bears a striking resemblance to the Red Sox: no matter how strong the team is, a lack of overall speed has meant losses on turf. The Crimson was 1-3-1 on turf this year, including the loss on Springfield's rug.
Unlike Harvard, the Chiefs are allergic to grass. Springfield was 13-0 on its home carpet, but 1-3-2 on natural turf.
"We're a turf team and they're a grass team," Springfield Coach Dottie Zenaty said. "[Today's game] is on grass, and that's their element. It's a disadvantage for us. We've had difficulty on grass."
Another disadvantage for the Chiefs will be Harvard forwards Rachel Burke and Sandra Whyte. Burke and Whyte have scored all of the Crimson's goals during its current five-game winning streak. Whyte's hat trick accounted for the scoring in a 3-1 win at Dartmouth, while Burke's two goals were the difference in the Brown game.
The main task for the Crimson defense will be stopping Springfield's Kim Zenisky. Zenisky leads the Chiefs with 14 goals and should test Harvard goalie Lisa Yadao.
"Everyone's really optimistic." Caples said. "We're psyched for the weekend. We ended the season feeling good about the Ivy title we earned, our play and the team's improvement. We're a really confident team."
In today's other opening-round matchup, Lafayette is favored over Princeton. The Leopards beat the Tigers, 4-1, when the teams met in September.
"We just made our opportunities count in that first game," Lafayette Coach Ann Gold said. "Our team morale is very upbeat, and we're really excited to host the tournament, but if we're not prepared and if we don't play well, we'll be a sorry lot."
Harvard hasn't met Lafayette this season, but the Crimson did defeat Princeton. Goals by Burke and Whyte sparked Harvard's 2-1 victory October 20 in New Jersey.
"It seemed like that was the first time in about 100 years that we beat them," Caples said. "But Princeton's capable of beating anyone on a given day."
The Crimson is currently ranked 17th, but an NCAA tournament bid, which goes 12 teams, is unlikely.
"I'm sure the winner of the ECAC's will get some consideration," Caples said. "But it's a very remote possibility that we'd be able to go to the NCAA's.
"We're looking forward to this tourney. It would be nice to finish the season playing our best hockey and if we play well, victory will be there."
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