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The Harvard field hockey team's 2000 season may have come to an end with a 6-3 loss to Wake Forest in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Saturday, but it was a new beginning for the team's future aspirations.
The solid showing of the Crimson (12-6, 6-1 Ivy) in the NCAAs gives the team a lot to build on for next season. Harvard came back and tied the game on three occasions in the first 45 minutes before finally succumbing.
"We had a great tournament," Coach Sue Caples said. "We played them tough and matched them goal-for-goal. We did not give up. They showed a lot of character coming back like they did."
The most encouraging result from the game was the Crimson's remarkable proficiency on penalty corners. Harvard's success on its first two corners of the day was the pinnacle of progress that had been evident throughout the latter part of the season--the culmination of uncountable hours of practice.
"We work on corners every day, and the last couple of weeks, every thing has come together, the timing on the pass, the stop, and the step to the hit," Caples said. "Everyone has improved this year. Earlier in the season we'd convert on tips and deflections, but the last few weeks we've had a few straight shots go in."
The game was invigorating and exciting for everyone involved. The Crimson played evenly for the first 45 minutes.
"I think that it was definitely an awesome game, with all the back and forth scoring," said freshman keeper Katie Zacarian. "The fundamentals were definitely there for us. Being able to score like we did on the two penalty corners--that was great."
Although Wake Forest was too tough to be conquered this past weekend, the team now has the experience and perspective it needs to achieve greater heights in future seasons. The team has already made significant strides in the two seasons since the construction of Jordan Field.
"Two years on turf and we've closed the gap with the teams we regularly play," Caples said. "There is no reason to think we can't eventually be a final four team. We'll need strong recruiting and we'll need to step it up a notch every year. There are all sorts of possibilities."
The younger players on the team have now tasted the success of NCAA glory and will no doubt be eager for more.
"Finding out we made the tournament--that was such a great feeling," Zacarian said. "It was such an adrenaline-rush, knowing that we were that good, and that we were finally being recognized for our accomplishments."
As for the seniors on the team--forward Kate Nagle and midfielders Maisa Badawy and Liz Sarles--their leadership in bringing Harvard to the NCAAs was the greatest of parting gifts for them to leave behind.
"It was great to see our seniors the last couple of weeks," Caples said. "They rose to the occasion and showed great leadership. This class will always be very special."
With four games remaining in the season, Harvard watched its Ivy title hopes all but disappear with a 2-0 loss at Princeton. Although the team's at-large NCAA hopes seemed distant at the time, the Crimson kept playing strong and finished 3-1, including solid wins over eventual ECAC finalists Dartmouth and Columbia.
"They could have easily folded up after the loss to Princeton, but they're all competitors, and every one on the team played an important role," Caples said.
The wins over its rivals earned Harvard its first six-win Ivy season in school history. Two days after the end of the regular season, the Crimson was awarded the at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament.
"They deserved this," Caples said. "There was a lot of respect out there for us. It's a lot harder to get an at-large bid to the tournament than an automatic bid. They should be very proud."
Harvard was well-represented on the Ivy and National Field Hockey Coaches Associations Regional All-American teams.
Co-captain Maisa Badawy and sophomore back Katie Scott were both first-team all-Ivy and first-team Regional All-American.
Badawy day-in and day-out won the key battles in the midfield, and always made the plays to lead Harvard out of its end on the attack. She scored the game-winning goal that ended an 80-minute stalemate in the pouring rain at then-No. 13 Boston College, as well as the third game-tying goal against Wake Forest.
Scott shined in the backfield all-season for the Crimson. Her skills were never more evident then when she stopped every single UMass attacker one-on-one in the seven-on-seven overtime. Scott was also a key part of Harvard's penalty corner attack. She converted for game-winners against Providence and Dartmouth late in the season.
"Katie had a terrific year," Caples said. "She's highly skilled, and she gained valuable experience this year. Our attack starts from our defense. She's a great sweeper"
Two Crimson forwards, Nagle and freshman Kate McDavitt, earned second-team all Ivy honors. McDavitt also a second-team Regional All-American.
Nagle scored nine goals on the season and 25 for her career to place her fourth on the all-time Harvard goal-scoring list. Her proficiency in finishing was evident when she earned a hat trick in Harvard's 5-1 victory over Cornell, which avenged a 1-0 loss from last season.
McDavitt earned a hat trick in her debut against Vermont, and never let down for the rest of the season. McDavitt, as well as sophomore forward Philomena Gambale who scored seven goals off the bench, were capable of making something out of nothing by beating three or four defenders while breaking towards the net. McDavitt did just that when she assisted on Badawy's game-tying goal against Wake Forest.
Freshman keeper Katie Zacarian was also a second-team All-Ivy selection. Like Anya Cowan '99 before her, Zacarian excelled as a freshman starter.
She earned six shutouts in her rookie season, including three straight against Northeastern, Yale and Boston College. Her best game may have been a 1-0 double overtime loss against then-No. 9 UMass in which she kept Harvard in the game despite being outshot 22-5.
"Katie came in having tremendous international experience," Caples said. "She is very talented with unlimited potential. I can't say enough about her."
In the off-season, Harvard will relish in the success of this season, while looking ahead to make another run in 2001.
"This was a fun, special year," Caples said. "This was a great team, that has great potential for the future. The chemistry was there. The players were committed to each other enabled them to achieve success. They knew what we could accomplish."
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