After a tough 1-4 mark through five games, the Harvard field hockey team did not lose its sense of motivation. In fact, the players felt they had a lot to prove in yesterday's match against 10th-ranked Boston University.
And powered by senior Sarah Downing's goal 12 seconds into the match and the stellar goaltending of sophomore Jessica Milhollin, Harvard emerged from Cumnock Field with a very impressive 1-1 double-overtime draw.
Harvard (1-4-1 overall, 0-1-0 Ivy) played a strong defensive game to keep BU (7-2-1) out of sync for most of the contest, even though the Terriers held an edge in most of the offensive statistics.
BU was the third opponent in Harvard's six games this season that ranked among the nation's top-20 teams, and although the other two games were also close (a 1-0 loss to New Hampshire and a 2-1 loss to Connecticut), yesterday's match produced the most satisfying result.
"We've been playing really well," Downing said. "There's no reason we can't keep up with those teams."
Downing's tally was the first Crimson goal scored by someone other than co-captain and Ivy League Player of the Week Francie Walton (see notes below), who has netted six goals.
Downing picked up a feed off the opening play, raced past several BU defenders and blistered a shot into the lower left-hand corner of the BU goal, momentarily shocking the Terriers and their fans.
However, BU recovered and controlled most of the remaining action in the first half. Terrier sophomore Anne Maxwell took senior Jennifer Nixon's feed off a penalty corner and nudged the ball into the Crimson net after a mad scramble to knot the game at 1-1 with 12:36 gone in the opening period.
Despite the goal, the Terriers had trouble maintaining any real flow to their game. They bungled the majority of their 20 penalty corner opportunities, frequently unable to corral the ball's untimely bounces off the Cumnock grass.
"BU hates to play on grass--they're an artificial turf team," Harvard Coach Sue Caples said. "We knew we had to keep pressure on them."
But without the sharp play of Milhollin, there would have been no celebration last night in Cambridge.
In one stretch during the second overtime, the Terriers blasted three shots in a row at the goalie, but Milhollin used first her feet and then her chest protector to deflect the ball.
"I'm so tired of losing by one goal," Milhollin said. "I wasn't going to let it happen again."
However, the road won't get any easier for the Crimson--its next game is Saturday at home against 19th-ranked Pennsylvania.