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In 1995, the Harvard women's lacrosse team got some good news and some bad news.
The good the news was that the rest of the Ivy League quickly got a lot better. Yale coach Amanda O'Leary, a former National Team member, brought her team into the Top 10 in only her second season. Dartmouth ended the regular season as the No. 2 team in the nation, and Princeton-- the defending National Champion-- made it again to the title game, losing to Maryland. Such performances are undoubtedly good for the northeastern women's lacrosse.
The bad news is that the much of it came at the expense of Harvard, the perennial dominator of the Ancient Eight. The Crimson finished the season at 8-5 overall and 2-4 in the Ivies, by far its worst league record ever. Coming into this is spring, Harvard had been to seven the consecutive six team NCAA Tournaments, had lost only six Ivy games ever and had not lost to an Ivy school not named "Princeton" since 1986.
Harvard is a team rooted in such history, so it is fitting that the Crimson was led by its three seniors--co-captains Megan Colligan and Genevieve Colligan and Genevieve Chelius along with Sarah Winters. Colligan and Chelius switched to defense at the start of the season but still finished at 2-3 on the team in scoring, and Winters tallied a team-high 37 goals and 53 points.
But the downside was that this trio carried practically the entire team on its shoulders. Three juniors--Erin Cleary, Maria Hennessey and co-captain-elect Megan Hall--tied for fourth on the team in scoring with 18 points.
Those are solid, decent numbers, but the not at Winters' or Colligan's (40 points) level. As a result, the Crimson could only look to those two if it needed offense. In the UNH game, Harvard needed Winters to score seven goals to hold off a Wildcat rally, and in the Yale game, Colligan led a comeback that fell short when her last goal was disallowed.
The third senior, Chelius, earned her place on the defensive side of the field, drawing the toughest defensive assignments. In the overtime win over Loyola--one of the team's better games of the year--Chelius grabbed nine ground balls and helped hold the Greyhounds to one goal after the 15:00 mark of the first period.
However, it is always the fate of the Harvard women's lacrosse team to be known for its defeats rather than its victories. Losses to Yale, Princeton (for the third year in a row), Maryland, Dartmouth and a season-finale disaster at Brown mark the season.
Harvard's strength this year, its seniors, are in a way the remnants of its history. But now it knows that it can no longer rely on its history to win lacrosse games. Dartmouth, Brown and Yale all got big monkeys off their backs in 1995, winning their first games against Harvard since the mid-eighties.
With Colligan and Winters gone, the Crimson needs scorers for the next season. That much is known. Who those scorers will be is another question entirely.
When asked this, Harvard coach Carole Kleinfelder said, "I have no idea."
The defensive side is a little clearer. Sophomore goaltender Kate Schutt was good behind the net, stopping 19 Cornell shots in come-from-behind win, but can also have bad games, such as in the Brown loss when she was pulled at the end the first half. Sophomore co-captain-elect Daphne Clark, junior Carrie Shumway and sophomore Mary Eileen Duffy were also all season long starting defenders.
Luckily, Klienfelder has half a year to ponder such things. But the ponder she must, because in the eyes of any Harvard women's lacrosse, player finishing 8-5 was shocking disappointment. Now, instead of fighting to remain king of the hill, the Crimson must work its way back up.
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