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Last Tuesday the Loyola women's lacrosse team scrapped by the No. 1 ranked Maryland, breaking the Terrapins' winning streak which dates back to 1995.
Yesterday Harvard's team met the Greyhounds (12-2, 6-0 CAA), and soon realized why Loyola defeated Maryland. The Crimson (4-7, 1-4 Ivy) fell 18-3 and were simply over-matched by an older, stronger Loyola team.
"They are the very best team we've played against all year," said sophomore Sarah Davis, who had a goal in the game. "It was a matter of us playing up to their level. At the beginning I think we did, but we couldn't hold on. We just gave them opportunities we couldn't afford to give."
At the start, the Crimson did play excellent defense. Despite an early goal just a minute into the game, Harvard kept the score low, and found itself down only 3-0 after the first 15 minutes.
But the Greyhounds continued their constant attack and wore the Harvard defense down. Loyola sophomore Maria Di Tommaso scored on a free position chance, with a shot over the shoulder of captain goaltender Shana Barghouti. Tommaso's goal started a 10 minute, 5 goal barrage, and Loyola never looked back.
"Free positions killed us," coach Carole Kleinfelder said. "They weren't scoring off of one-on-one stuff. They made hard cuts and we fouled them. We couldn't stop the free positions.
"We didn't give [goalie Barghouti] the protection she needed on most of the shots."
Down 8-0 the Crimson needed to step up the play on offense, but Harvard could never keep possession of the ball long enough to get anything started.
The majority of the match was played in Harvard's defensive zone, with the Greyhounds constantly attacking. This aggressive pressure tired Harvard and increased the Greyhounds' scoring chances.
"There were moments when he held them off well," said junior defender Holly Rogers. "But it's hard to keep that up when the whole game is played in your end."
It was ball control that brought down Harvard. Loyola held the ball in Harvard's zone, making outside passes until finally someone would break open for a crisp entry pass. Any loose ground balls were routinely retrieved by the hustling Greyhounds.
"Ball control was very big," Kleinfelder said. "They are an exceptionally good ball controlling team."
"It's all about possession," Davis said. "Without control, it becomes more of a running game and it's harder to keep up. If we have the ball, they can't score."
The few times the Crimson was able to bring the play to the opposite end and sustain some pressure on the Loyola goaltender, the action was restricted to the perimeter. Harvard could not find a seam in the defense to break through and get quality shots on goal.
Loyola ended up out-shooting Harvard by a ratio of three-to-one (36 shots to 11).
"The transition from defense to attack after a turnover was poor for us," Rogers said. "They really limited the number of opportunities we had."
Harvard did eventually find a seam in the defense. Davis made a hard cut to free herself of her defender and received a sharp pass from junior Honor MacNaughton.
Spinning around quickly, she fired a bounce shot in the upper corner of the net.
Unfortunately the Crimson could not begin a rally, with Loyola responding with eight consecutive goals, doubling their lead to 16-1 and ending any hopes of a Harvard comeback.
"It's just a question of skill and today was not Harvard's day," said Kleinfelder. "If we had played our game, we could've played them a lot better."
Rogers agreed. "They're a good team, with a lot of experience and talent. But they're not a 15 point better team. We could've given them more of a game than we did."
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