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Letting Go Of the Past

Brown Knows


Comparing the 1996 Harvard women's lacrosse team to its predecessors is an easy thing to do. And ruthless.

From 1984-1992, the Crimson lost one Ivy League game (to Dartmouth in 1986). Harvard won the national title in 1990 and also made it to the finals in 1989 and 1992.

In 1995, Harvard missed the postseason for the first time since 1987 and went 2-4 in the Ivies. This year, the league record stands at 0-3.

So that's 52-1 (there were only five league games in '87) compared to 2-7.

Some statistics lie, but these don't. Harvard is nowhere near the team that it once was. It's no wonder, then, that coach Carole Kleinfelder wants her team to look forward, not back.

"I think that you have to give this team a chance to get its own identity," she said at the beginning of the season. "I want to resist putting any labels or expectations on them."

It's difficult when a team has high hopes, and with the possible exceptions of the squash and men's hockey teams, this squad has the highest at Harvard. The players often try to use it to their advantage--for instance, before last year's Dartmouth game, co-captain Genevieve Chelius '95 told each underclassman, "We are Harvard. They are Dartmouth. Harvard doesn't lose to Dartmouth."

The mantra didn't work--the Crimson lost, 14-8. The point is, however, that the players are not afraid to remember the past.

But shouldn't they be? Harvard came into this season having lost its top three scorers, its starting goaltender and a starting midfielder. Unlike past teams, the regular season wasn't an extended warm-up for the NCAA's--first on the Crimson's priority list was getting back into the top half of the Ivy League.

Well, for that to happen, Harvard better start a winning streak real soon. The question isn't "What now?" but "What happened?"

The Crimson's three league losses were to Princeton, 15-4; Penn, 9-8; and Yale, 14-7. The Tigers, ranked fifth in the nation, are a very good team--but not three times as good as the Crimson. Likewise, No. 8 Yale shouldn't be doubling Harvard, while the Quakers shouldn't even be beating the Crimson at all--especially when Harvard holds a 7-4 halftime lead.

My point is, Harvard could be playing a heck of a lot better. Yes, the team is not as dominant as the 1992 squad or any from the late 1980s. But the Crimson does have potential to do a lot better than it's doing now.

After the Yale loss, co-captain Megan Hall said that she felt the offense was waiting for things to happen instead of doing it themselves--too passive, in other words. And when people did take control, they did so impatiently and alone, not using their teammates.

Could this mean that the team is counting on Harvard's history to win games? Are people thinking, Don't worry, when Penn sees Harvard on its schedule it'll roll over and we'll win by 24. And when the other team takes a (gasp!) lead, is everyone waiting for one of Harvard's All-Americans to score six or seven goals--but no one realizes that Harvard doesn't have any All-Americans?

Maybe. The fact is, Harvard has shied away in the second half of its last three games (Penn, Yale and a 14-6 loss to Loyola), either blowing a lead or letting another team expand its advantage. If Harvard had played as well in the second as it did in the first, two or three of those could have been wins.

It's puzzle, one that the Crimson needs to solve soon. But one thing is sure: The answer lies in the present, not the past.

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