PRINCETON, N.J.--The No. 18 Harvard field hockey team knew that it would have to avoid any major mistakes on Saturday in order to beat No. 7 Princeton for the first time since 1993 and maintain control of its own destiny in the Ivy race.
But unfortunately for the Crimson, a critical error on penalty corner coverage in the 25th minute gave Princeton the early lead. Harvard (9-4, 4-1 Ivy) left All-American Tiger forward Hillary Matson wide open to drive in the rebound off the initial hit. Princeton (9-3, 5-0 Ivy) never relinquished its lead, winning by a final score of 2-0.
"Princeton is a great team," Harvard Coach Sue Caples said. "When you play strong teams like this--and we're almost there--you can't make mistakes. Our mistakes were costly, and teams at the highest level make fewer and fewer mistakes."
Harvard had kept the ball away from Matson--the Ivy League's leading scorer--up until that fatal corner.
"We called a different corner set, and it was only executed by half the team," Caples said. "If we had all been on the same page, someone would have been marking this kid [Matson]. She was wide open. Someone was supposed to come behind, and everyone didn't know that was the call."
The Matson goal spoiled what otherwise could have been a breakthrough game for the Crimson. Up until then, neither team had been particularly dominant, as each had given up three penalty corners, and Harvard freshman Kate McDavitt came closer to scoring than any of Princeton's forwards in the early going.
Soon after Harvard's first penalty corner, McDavitt made a rush to the net that ended with her colliding into Tiger keeper Kelly Baril--her second goalkeeper collision in as many games. Twenty minutes into the contest, she split two defenders and made her way to the circle before being taken down, earning Harvard's third corner.
Defense was prevalent throughout, as there were so many stoppages of play that neither team could control the ball with any consistency. The Crimson backs rendered Matson and the other Princeton forwards ineffective during the regular course of the game. "Their forwards have tremendous speed," Caples said. "They've been attacking all season. Our backs did a great, great job stifling them."
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