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Who needs seniors after all?
Conventional wisdom says that having good senior experience and leadership is the best way to ensure a winning team. If that's true, than the 1996 Ivy League field hockey season is quite an anomaly.
Princeton (11-2, 5-0 Ivy), a team made up of juniors, sophomores and freshman, defeated Harvard (8-6, 3-1), 5-1 on Saturday, giving Princeton at least a share of the league title for the third year in a row.
Since the only team which can possibly tie Princeton is Harvard--that would happen only if Princeton fell to Penn and Harvard beat Dartmouth and Brown--the Tigers would win the tiebreaker due to their win over the Crimson. Therefore, Princeton will host the NCAA play-in game against the Patriot League champion on November 12.
That could be an interesting game, as Patriot-Leaguer Lafayette handed Princeton its first defeat of the season, a 3-2 upset on October 9. Unlike the Ivies, however, the Patriot League has a tournament to decide its champion, so the Leopards may not be the league's ambassador.
But the No. 17 Tigers will be, especially considering their upcoming schedule. Princeton travels south to Richmond and to No. 4 Old Dominion this week; and then it heads to William & Mary on Saturday, a team that was in the Top 20 earlier this season. Next week, Princeton closes out its Ivy schedule against Penn.
Harvard, meanwhile, will finish in second place in the Ivies, barring unforeseen fortune or misfortune. Not that it's a terrible thing--second would be the Crimson's best Ivy finish since 1993; and if Harvard won one of its last three games, then it could have its first overall winning record since 1991.
Harvard takes on Dartmouth on Saturday at noon, followed by Northeastern on Monday and Brown the following Friday. All three games are in Cambridge.
The Big Green (2-3, 8-7) is coming off of a difficult loss to the Big Red in double-overtime on Sunday. Dartmouth battered Cornell goalie Molly Kauffmann in the extra periods, forcing her to make eight saves, before her offense finally won the game. For her efforts, Kauffmann was honored with the Ivy League Player of the Week award.
And it won't get any easier for Dartmouth, as the team will host No. 9 UMass today before ending the season with Harvard.
For Cornell (5-8, 1-3), the Dartmouth victory helped put a positive note on what had been a disappointing season. Except for a 4-1 victory over Columbia--a team that's in its first year of varsity play--Cornell had not beaten a team in October before Dartmouth. Of the Big Red's five defeats this month, however, four had been by just one goal.
Another team that's trying hard to get back on track is Penn (6-8, 2-2), which has won its last two Ivy games, but lost its last three non-conference matches. The latest of the latter group was a 3-0 defeat by No. 6 Maryland. On Saturday, however, the Quakers rebounded to beat the Brown Bears, 2-1. Penn next battles an interstate rival, No. 12 Penn State, today, before closing out its season with games against Yale and Princeton.
After beginning their season slowly, the Elis (8-6, 1-3) are red hot, having won their last three straight and five out of the last six. The latest victims were Rhode Island (a 6-2 win), Columbia (6-0) and Fairfield (3-2).
Freshman Erin Arruda was the star of these games, scoring four goals and two assists in the busy week. For her exploits, she won the Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors. Yale takes on Hofstra today before playing Penn and then Cornell.
Lastly, Brown (8-7, 1-3) seems to be the anti-Penn, winning its last three non-conference games, but losing its last two Ivy matchups. The Bears fell to the Quakers, but defeated URI, Holy Cross and Siena. Next, Brown takes on Cornell and then Harvard.
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