Laden with more firepower than a Western posse, the 1997 Harvard field hockey team might want to rename Cumnock Field the O.K. Corral.
"We're a dynamic team, a good transition team," Coach Sue Caples said. "There's tremendous potential on this team. We have all the positives."
Start with an offense that Caples predicts will surpass last year's total of 32 goals in 19 games.
"This year, we'll be able to pick up and score field goals," Caples said. "We have really great corner batteries and the potential to score on all corners. We hit the ball well and have good speed."
Complementing the explosive offense is the potent defensive nucleus of senior Beck Stringer, junior Sally Romano and sophomores Katie School-werth and Anya Cowan.
"We'll be able to be very attacking out of our own defense," Caples said. "Anya was outstanding last year in goal. Our defense is a very solid unit with very skilled players."
However, the defense needs to cut down the number of shots Cowan faces. Cowan, who played every minute of every game last year, made 185 saves en route to a 1.74 goals-against-average.
"Anya had to make too many saves," said co-captain Amy DiMarzio. "She sees too many shots."
In August, Cowan played for her home province of Ontario in the Canada Summer Games in Manitoba. Ontario lost to British Columbia, 1-0, in the finals.
Missing from the Crimson roster thus far in the preseason has been junior Judy Collins, who will play for the United States national team in the Junior World Cup in Seoul, South Korea. Collins, who set school single-season records for both goals (13) and points (30) last year, will return to Cambridge on Sept. 15.
When the Crimson opens the season against Rhode Island, it must continue last season's trend of scoring early while eliminating another habit-the inability to finish.
"Last year, we'd be clearly dominating a game, then give the other team the opportunity to get back into it," Stringer said. "We also have to win games by more than a one-goal margin. Many of those games should have been won by two or three goals."
Harvard will again post a youthful team this year, with only two starting seniors in Stringer and DiMarzio.
"We're relatively young, but mature," Stringer said. "We have experience, as well as a great group of freshmen."
"The challenge for us is to go out and play at our own level and dominate opponents," Caples said.
Harvard will need to perform well in its opening game against Rhode Island on Sept. 13.
"Rhode Island is great to open with," Caples said. "They're aggressive, physical and scrappy. We'll need to control the ball in the midfield and allow the backs to develop and be attacking."
Last year, Harvard edged Rhode Island in overtime, 3-2.
Caples forecasts Princeton, which finished second in the nation last year, as the team to beat. The Tigers did not graduate anyone from last year and boast goalie Gia Fruscione. Amy MacFarlane, who played on the Canadian national team and earned All-Ivy honors, Kathleen Kelly and Kirsty Hale all bolster Princeton, which is strong up the middle.
"The pressure's on them, but the entire conference is very strong," Caples said. "There's parity in a good sense. There are a lot of quality athletes."
Harvard graduated one of its own stars last-year in Daphne Clark '97, who played sweeper the previous two years.
"Daphne contributed a lot, both on and off the field," Caples said. "Sweeper is a critical position, and Daphne had good knowledge of the game. She gave us good direction."
Stringer will likely replace Clark at sweeper.
"Beck is knowledgeable," Caples said. "It's a matter of taking her strength and incorporating it into our style."
Clark also hit most of the corner shots for the team last season, with Schoolwerth taking the remainder. This year, the team expects Romano to take over Clark's share.
Junior midfielder Caroline Johnston, a new addition to the team, will add some more maturity to the young squad.
"We have a great core of people returning," Stringer said. "Last year, we had a lot of goal scoring. I can see progression."
Which, if true, will load still more ammunition into Harvard's already-stacked six-guns.
Record: 11-8, 5-1 Ivy
Coach: Sue Caples
Captains: Amy Dimarzio, Beck Stringer
Key Returnees: Junior Judy Collins, sophomores Anya Cowan and Katie Schoolwerth
Key Loss: Daphne Clark