The Harvard field hockey team (9-9, 5-2 Ivy) continued to build and improve in the 1998 season, tying for second in the Ivy League with Yale and competing in the East Coast Athletic Conference (ECAC) tournament.
The squad battled several nationally ranked teams to narrow losses despite having 10 freshmen on the squad. With an experienced squad and a new turf field, the Crimson will look to break into the next level of competition next season.
"We were always one goal away," captain Tara LaSovage said. "Next year's team has a lot within its reach."
Harvard got out to a strong start in the 1998 season, crushing Vermont 5-0 and Ivy foe Columbia 4-1 in the first two weeks of play. An early match-up against No. 3 ranked Connecticut, however, proved too much for the Crimson, as the team battled for a 3-1 loss.
"The UConn game was tied until late in the game," LaSovage said. "It was a lot closer than the score suggests."
On the heels of the close UConn loss, the team dropped a heartbreaking 3-2 game to Yale in overtime. Refusing to wilt, Harvard bounced back and reeled off five consecutive victories through the middle of the season. The Crimson streak included crucial league victories over Penn and Cornell, and well as decisive wins over regional opponents Providence and New Hampshire.
Capping off the streak, Harvard battled to a tense 1-0 win over Stanford. The defensive prowess displayed by the Crimson helped keep the Cardinal under control, as the win provided momentum for the squad.
"Stanford is an up and coming team," LaSovage said. "It was a big win for us. Our defense stepped up and held under a lot of pressure. It gave us a lot of confidence."
Fresh off the victory, Harvard entered the toughest stretch of games on its schedule. The team fought to close losses against top-20 teams from Boston College and Northeastern, but struggled in a 5-1 defeat to perennial powerhouse Princeton. The Tigers went on to win their fifth consecutive Ivy title with an undefeated league record and made its third straight Final Four appearance.
"Princeton is hard because they've been good for so long," LaSovage said. "But we knew that we had nothing to lose and just had to play our best game. We just didn't give it our best showing."
Once again the Crimson rebounded from a tough loss, finishing the season with a strong 3-2 win over Dartmouth and a 6-0 thrashing of Brown. The late-season rally put Harvard in a tie for second place in the Ivy League, good enough to earn the team its second ECAC tournament bid in three years. As the No. 3 seed in the four-team tournament, Harvard faced arch-rival Yale in the first round and, despite fighting all the way, dropped a nail-biter, 2-1, to end the season.
"We had a lot of energy before the Yale game, and we really wanted it," LaSovage said. "But we just couldn't put it all together to pull it off."
Despite the disappointing end to the season, several Harvard players earned All-League honors.
Captain Judy Collins and junior Kate Schoolwerth were named First Team All-Ivy. LaSovage and junior goalkeeper Anya Cowan collected Second Team honors and senior Penny Fairbairn and junior Maisa Badawy garnered Honorable Mentions.
Collins was a dominant force in the Crimson offense, scoring in 12 of 18 games, including five multigoal efforts. She tied the Ivy League scoring record, and ended her Harvard career with 102 points off of 43 goals and 16 assists. Collins was also named First Team Regional All-American for the second time.
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