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The Hounds of Loyola can run.
Prior to yesterday's game against Harvard, the speedy Loyola women's lacrosse team had sprinted to an unblemished (12-0) record and a number-two national ranking.
Unfortunately for the Hounds, they ran out of steam. They ran out of gas. They ran into a wall.
The Hounds could run, but they couldn't hide. The top-ranked Crimson (9-0 overall, 3-0 Ivy) came from three goals behind to vanquishing the home team on its Baltimore turf, 6-5, on a late goal by Jennifer Walser.
"I thought it was a good game overall," Loyola junior attacker Colleen Anderson said. "They were just a little more up in the second half."
The Crimson had good reason to be up entering the second half, even though it trailed by a 4-2 margin. With Loyola leading, 4-1, with nine seconds remaining in the first session, Harvard senior midfielder Char Joslin had broken through the stingy Hound defense to tally an unassisted score. It was a big goal for the flustered Crimson attack.
"That goal really put us in the game," Julie Clifford junior attacker said.
Before Joslin's clutch score, the momentum had belonged to Loyola. The Hounds jumped on the board quickly when attacker Sharon Jones netted an unassisted tally at 30 seconds into the first half. Loyola proceeded to pad its lead to 3-0 on scores by Jey Bogusky and Sabrina Gallagher.
"In the first half, we played a really good game," Loyola defender Kelly McCuigan said. "We had our fast break and set plays working."
Another crucial factor in the Hounds' first half success was the performance of senior goaltender Sue Heether. Heether finished the contest with an impressive 20 saves, continually turning away the Crimson attack.
"She was undoubtedly the best goalie we've faced all year," Walser said.
The Loyola defense was not impenetrable, however. Clifford got things started when she took a feed from senior Co-Captain Julia French and put it past the formidable Heether. It was a moral victory for the Crimson attack, which up to that point had been frustrated by a pesky Loyola defense and the Curley Field artificial turf that made fielding ground balls difficult.
"We didn't play a really good game," Clifford said. "Our attack struggled. We placed our shots poorly."
But Harvard Coach Carole Kleinfelder's squad's attack was confident, and came out with a vengeance in the second half.
"Carole gave us a good talk at halftime," Clifford said. "Our intensity was high [in the second half]."
It showed. Senior Karen Everling, coming off a six-goal performance against UMass, tallied midway through the period to draw the Crimson within one goal. French was again instrumental in the goal, coming up with the second of what Walser called 'impossible assists.'
"It was beautiful," Walser said. "It was a 'thread the needle' pass."
And it was Everling who pulled the Crimson even when she scored, unassisted, three minutes later. The senior attacker also contributed to the impermeable Harvard defense that held the Hounds to one second-half goal, dropping back to double-team Loyola attackers after a Kleinfelder halftime adjustment.
Joslin gave the Crimson its first lead with another unassisted goal, but Gallagher thrilled the raucous crowd by knotting the score at 5-5 with six minutes remaining.
The stage was set for Walser's heroics.
With time ticking away, Walser received the ball from Ceci Clark in front of the Loyola goal.
"I saw the goalie go for the interception," Walser said. "I took a stupid, no-angle shot on an open cage. It was not beautiful."
Beautiful or not, Walser's score silenced the pack of Hounds, giving the Crimson an important win over a disciplined squad while solidifying its number one ranking.
"We played them a lot tougher than last year," Anderson said. "Hopefully, we'll get to see them again."
While the Hounds may be hungry, Crimson players believe they have yet to gel completely on offense. That should scare opposing teams.
"We haven't peaked," Clifford said. "Last year, I think we peaked earlier."
With last year's disappointment in the NCAA finals lingering in the back of its minds, the Harvard women's lacrosse team moves on.
THE NOTEBOOK: The Crimson will face its last dangerous test of the regular season on Sunday when it takes on undefeated third-ranked Maryland at Ohiri Field at 1 p.m.
Crimson, 6-5 in Baltimore Loyola 4-1-5 HARVARD 2-4-6
Goals: Loyola-Colleen Anderson, Joy Bogusky, Sharon Jones, Sabrina Gallagher 2;H-Julie Clifford, Karen Everling 2, Char Joslin 2, Jennifer Walser.
Assists: Loyola-Anderson, Karen Ravn; H-Julia French 2.
Saves: Loyola-Sue Heether 20; H-Sarah Leary 8.
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