The top-ranked Harvard women's lacrosse team takes on the fifth-ranked Lady Grey hounds of Loyola at Baltimore, Md. today in an effort to prove that the crimson is still the baddest dog in town.
Loyola (8-1) is the sixth Top 15 team the Crimson has faced this season. So far, Harvard (8-0 overall, 3-0 Ivy) has destroyed its previous nationally-ranked victims by a combined score of 51-19, the closest being last Saturday's 7-5 victory over second ranked Maryland.
If the Crimson keeps playing the way it has, it is virtually guaranteed a spot in the NCAA tournament. But even though post-season action looks imminent, the Crimson wants to make sure that it has the easiest road possible to the NCAA finals.
"This is an important game for seeding purposes, since we are travelling out of our region," Harvard Coach Carole Kleinfelder said. "The team is healthy, but it would be nice to play a game without it raining on us."
The Crimson is powered by high-scoring junior Liz berkery, who leads the team and the Ivy League with 31 goals and a team high .544 shooting percentage. Berkery also leads the nation in goals per game at 3.85 tallies perouting.
Berkery, senior teammates Buffy Hansen and Becky Gaffney, and sophomores Sarah Downing and Francie Walton should have a good day if Harvard can keep the ball on Loyola's end of the field.
"They are a young team, and their defense is not as strong as their offense," Kleinfelder said. "Loyola is also weak in the goal."
In the goal for Loyola is senior Linda Ohrin, whose .585 save average is low for a team as successful as the Lady Greyhounds, but Kleinfelder is quick to emphasize that Loyola is no pushover.
"They are an explosive team and if they get on track they will be hard to stop," said Kleinfelder.
Senior Co-captain Ceci Clark said the Crimson is ready for Loyola, but is not looking past them.
"Everyone is taking this game seriously. There has been no let down in our intensity," said the defensive specialist.
The Lady Greyhounds' only loss has come against fourth-ranked Penn State, 9-7, in their season opener. At home, Loyola is particularly tough, boasting a perfect 4-0 record on the artificial turf, which aids its quick game.
The Lady Greyhounds are led in scoring by sophomore Tara Kramer with 27 goals on the season, and senior playmaker Colleen Anderson, who has 25 assists. Kramer is a quick lefty who will probably draw the attention of Clark or speedy junior Rachel Burke.
"I am looking for more shots from the rest of our offense," said Kleinfelder. "Liz, Buffy and Sarah Downing have all been performing well, but we need a more blanced attack."
The crimson has been working on its attack in practice, according to Clark. "We've been trying to perfect our settled of fense and the way we beat double-teams," said Clark.
Beating double-team defensive pressure is key to the Crimson's success, because opponents have been keying on Berkery as of late.
THE NOTEBOOK: Harvard goalie Sarah Leary was named Ivy League Defensive player of the Week, after holding Yale to two goals and Maryland to five...Also recognized was sophomore sarah Dowining, who was named Offensive Player of the Week after scoring seven goals last week against Yale and Maryland, including both game-winners...Harvard rookie Assistant Coach Sue Heether is returning home tomorrow. She graduated from Loyola in 1990 as the all-time leader in saves, and spent last year as an assistant with the Lady Greyhounds.