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Whoever said, "The best offense is a good defense" has obviously won over Harvard women's lacrosse coach Carole Kleinfelder.
After losing six seniors--four of whom were defenders--from last season's NCAA Tournament-qualifying team, Kleinfelder realized that a little bit of juggling was in order.
Now, those that followed the Crimson last season may be a bit confused. Co-captains Megan Colligan and Genevieve Chelius, who had 28 goals combined last year, have been reprogrammed to protect Harvard's goal. Likewise, senior Sarah Winters (27 goals, 11 assists), junior Megan Hall (nine goals, two assists) and sophomore Liz Schoyer (four goals, six assists) will be holding the line at midfield this season.
It is difficult to say what sort of effect this will have on the eighth-ranked Crimson, which has been one of the best teams in the country over the past decade yet has not won a national title since 1990.
With the new formation, the attacker with the most points from last season in junior Erin Clearly, who 13 goals on 16 shots. In contrast, Harvard's most proficient shooters last year were Winters and Sarah Downing '94, each of whom had 60 shots.
Another area where possible trouble might arise is at goal, which is guarded by sophomore Kate Schutt. The Ivy League Rookie of the Year in 1994, Schutt and the Crimson defense held opponents to a leaguebest 4.17 goals per Ivy game. Whether or not she can continue her hot ways without the class of '94 remains to be seen.
Nevertheless, as many potential difficulties as there may be, the switch was something that Kleinfelder was forced into.
"We had to do something," Kleinfelder said. "We'll see [how it works] when we play a game."
Harvard fans won't be kept in suspense too long. The Crimson plays its first game tomorrow at B.C., a 24-4 loser to Harvard last year. The huge score was only a minor fluke; if the Eagles get half as many points as the Crimson tomorrow it will be an upset.
But for those that cannot wait, there have been signs that the new alignment is working out the kinks.
Two weekends ago at the William and Mary Tournament--a kind of a lacrosse spring training where all the games are only half the regulation time--Harvard lost to top-ranked Virginia on the second day of the tourney.
The next day was different story; the Crimson, the words of sophomore midfielder Lindsay Davison "won decisively" over the Cavaliers.
"Because we're doing [the switch] consistently, people are beginning to feel more comfortable than last year--when we did a lot of moving around during the season," Davison said. "Every game we played we came [more] together as a team."
A feeling of teamwork will be important this season. Many of the big cannons from last year are gone--people like Downing and co-captain Francie Walton '94. The Crimson relied on these guns for most of its scoring, betting that they would create goals out of their sheer athletic ability.
The strategy gave Harvard the power to score at any point in the game, but at the same time it required that the opposition make some mistakes. So, if a team played near-perfect--such as Maryland or Loyola in their respective blowouts of Harvard--the Crimson would have trouble.
Therefore, for this year, balance is the word on Ohiri Field. Sure, the sight of a Harvard player running the length of the field for a goal will be rarer, but it will hopefully be replaced with the sight of more points from regular offensive plays.
"Last hear we relied too much on two or three people," sophomore attacker Daphne Clark said. "We need to be able to score off of a settled offense, which we weren't able to do at all last year."
Another possible benefit of the position switcheroo is the increase in player versatility. practically all of the defenders are schooled in offense; the same can be said for the attackers.
In women's lacrosse, versatility becoming increasingly necessary. A team can only plan what it will do to a degree, and situations arise in which a player has to be out of her natural position for some period of time.
Having interchangeable parts also allows Harvard to carry a smaller team than before. The varsity only consists of 19 players, about five less than usual.
"[Kleinfelder] wanted to have some of the more versatile players," Chelius said. "This way, she is confident that she can put anyone anywhere."
More than anything, this year will be a transition year. Not in the sense that Harvard will necessarily go through a year of woe before it can regain the glory of the past, but in the sense that in 1995 the team will find out if the juniors or sophomores can fill the shoes of their departed elders.
In previous years, the juniors and seniors stepped up. Harvard has, of course, made the six-team NCAA tournament for seven straight years. If things go right for the Crimson, that streak will not be in jeopardy.
"Look for people like Megan Hall, [junior] Maria Hennessey and Erin Cleary to come up really big," Winters said. "The three freshmen [Sarah Cable, Keren Gudeman and Holly Rogers] are also doing well."
1994 IVY STANDINGS OVERALL IVY Team W L PCT W L PCT Princeton 14 1 .933 6 0 1. 00 HARVARD 11 4 .733 5 1 . 833 Dartmouth 11 4 .733 4 2 .6 67 Penn 8 6 .571 3 3 .500 Yale 10 5 .667 2 4 .333 Brown 4 10 .286 1 5 .167 Cornell 4 10 .286 0 6 .000
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