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If a sports team is referred to as "up and coming," that is usually taken as an insult. Most of the time, that's just a polite way of saying that a team sucks.
Not so for the Harvard field hockey team. The Crimson was a youthful squad in 1994, and though it was only 6-9, the players truly believe that an Ivy League power is in the making. Harvard only loses one senior--captain Megan Colligan--from a team that finished fourth in the Ivy League at 3-3.
"We're definitely going to be so good next year," sophomore forward Mary Eileen Duffy said. "It's a huge loss losing Megan Colligan, but she's only one player."
Colligan inherited a team that had a lot of ground to make up. Seven players left from the 1993 squad that finished a disappointing 5-7-3, including co-captain elect Sarah Winters, who quit the team. So many without varsity experience saw extended periods of action, including Duffy, junior Melanie Allen, sophomore Liz Schoyer and freshmen Jen Bowdoin, Eileen Horwath, Sally Romano and Amy DiMarzio.
Some of these new faces turned out to be gems. Horwath and Romano took over the backfield under the watch of Colligan, and Romano turned into an All-Ivy Honorable Mention. Allen and Bowdoin, meanwhile, both tallied three goals, the third-highest output on the team.
Nevertheless, it took a while until the team began to gel. At all. Harvard won its first game, a 2-1 victory over Rhode Island, but dropped contests to UNH, UConn and Providence. The losses were forgivable--all three teams were then ranked in the Top 20, and the Huskies were at No. 3--but in both the Providence and UNH games Harvard held a 1-0 lead at halftime only to lose, 3-1.
Things did not get too much better over the next five games. Harvard beat a pair of unspectacular teams--Springfield and Cornell--before bowing to B.U., 4-2, and Penn, 5-2. Both of the losses were close games until the closing minutes, when the Crimson's opponents broke out with bunches of goals.
These two defeats, however, were nothing compared to the William and Mary debacle. Over the first three-quarters of the game the Crimson couldn't get good shots on the Tribe's net, though it controlled possession of the ball. Then, however, William and Mary scored on a breakaway to go up, 1-0, and would breeze to a 3-0 win. It was a game that Harvard had no business losing, but still did.
At this point, the Crimson was 3-6 and things looked bleak. But Harvard beat Yale, 1-0, in its next game, and after losing to B.C. and Princeton upset No. 8 Northeastern--the latter three all teams that went to the 12-team NCAA Tournament.
Against the Huskies, the Crimson held the potent visitor's attack to one goal, but for the first 65 minutes couldn't get any successful attacks. Schoyer, however, broke free of the defense at the four-minute mark to tie the game, and Allen ricocheted the game-winner into the box with not more than four seconds left.
Harvard would then split its last two games of the year, a 4-1 win over Brown, tying the Crimson with the Big Red for fourth in the Ivies and earning the team a split in its last six games.
With that showing, Harvard proved that there might be some talent on this team after all. Five players were awarded with Ivy League honors: Colligan and junior scoring leader Carrie Shumway (five goals, six assists) were first team All-Ivy; junior Maureen O'Brien was on the second team, though hobbled by an ankle injury; and sophomore Courtenay Benedict was an Ivy League Honorable Mention along with Romano.
Thanks to the 1994 season, the roots are in place for an Ivy League power. Whether that actually blooms forth remains to be seen.
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