For 15 minutes, the Harvard women's lacrosse team looked like it could beat Dartmouth yesterday.
But for the other 45 minutes, it didn't, as the Big Green survived a second-half Crimson comeback to win 15-9 at Ohiri Field.
With the victory, No. 11 Dartmouth (9-3, 5-1 Ivy) clinched at least a share of the Ivy League title with Princeton. Two years ago, the Big Green accomplished the exact same feat at Ohiri Field with a 14-8 victory that clinched the Ivy title.
But while the 1995 game was close throughout--Dartmouth didn't really open up a big lead until the game's waning moments--yesterday's match began as a Big Green blowout but ended as a close game. Dartmouth built up a 7-0 advantage over the contest's first 20 minutes and led 10-3 at halftime.
Down 12-4 with 20 minutes left in the game, Harvard made its move, scoring five out of the next six goals to cut the lead to four with eight minutes left. But the Big Green's defense held firm for the game's close, and its offense added two extra goals for insurance.
For Harvard (4-6, 1-4), the game presented a roller coaster of emotions, as the Crimson played some of the best lacrosse of its season in the second half but was far below that level in the first. Nothing was the same--the passing, the transition and interior defense, the shot selection, anything.
The loss therefore shows Harvard how good it can be--it's a very young team and is looking far beyond this season--and how inconsistent it can be. The game was not a good, but it wasn't that bad either.
"[In the second half] we worried about it less and played more," said Harvard coach Carole Kleinfelder. "I'm seeing these glimmers, and I want them to keep improving. I feel as though we're really capable of playing well."
The big glimmer began 12:43 into the second half, when junior Honor MacNaughton scored on a fast break from the right side. Senior Liz Schoyer controlled the ensuing draw, which led to a goal by senior Chris Shortsleeve 25 seconds later.
Dartmouth rallied back with a quick goal, but Shortsleeve and freshman Annelle Fitzpatrick scored back-to-back with 12 minutes left, and freshman Rebecca Brown later deposited a rebound of sophomore Sarah Davis' shot to shave the lead to four, the smallest since Dartmouth led 4-0.
But on its next attack, the Crimson had the ball for 90 seconds but couldn't find the net, and once Big Green goalie Sarah Carlson got the ball back her offense was able to score in less than a minute. That gave Dartmouth back the momentum and the game.
Early on, however, it looked as though the Big Green could go on cruise control without worries. Thanks to a lightning-fast attack and an ability to win most of the draws, Dartmouth controlled the ball for the game's start and opened up a big lead.
"The team was pretty down after [Saturday's 9-8 loss to Brown]," said Dartmouth coach Amy Patton. "I just give the kids a lot of credit. Today's game was a real gut check."
To its credit, the Crimson started containing its opponents better on defense and took better care of the ball on offense, which cut down on the Big Green's attack chances. Harvard also outscored Dartmouth 6-5 in the second half.
But it was a case of too little, too late.
Dartmouth's Jen Greene racked up three assists on the day, the first of which put her in first place on the Big Green's all-time career assist chart with 51. Prior record-holder Lauren Holleran had to watch from the Harvard bench, where she is now an assistant coach.
The Crimson next play host to Loyola on Sunday at noon. The Greyhounds defeated No. 1 Maryland on Tuesday, a team that hadn't lost a game for over two seasons. G: Dartmouth--Morrill 4, Hannigan 2, Huffman 2, Graw, McNulty, Mendelson, Shorts, Frazier Greene, Fenwick, Weitzel; Harvard--MacNaughton 3, Shortsleeve 3, Schoyer, Brown, Fitzpatrick. A: Dartmouth--Greene 3, Hannigan, Fenwick; Harvard--MacNaughton, Schoyer. S: Dartmouth--Carlson 12; Harvard--Barghouti 11.
G: Dartmouth--Morrill 4, Hannigan 2, Huffman 2, Graw, McNulty, Mendelson, Shorts, Frazier Greene, Fenwick, Weitzel; Harvard--MacNaughton 3, Shortsleeve 3, Schoyer, Brown, Fitzpatrick. A: Dartmouth--Greene 3, Hannigan, Fenwick; Harvard--MacNaughton, Schoyer. S: Dartmouth--Carlson 12; Harvard--Barghouti 11.