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.