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Everything will be on the line in tomorrow’s match-up of Ivy titans as No. 8 Princeton travels to Jordan Field to face the No. 15 Harvard field hockey team at noon. Both the Crimson (10-3, 3-0 Ivy) and the Tigers (9-3, 5-0) come in with unblemished Ivy records, the only League teams that can make that claim.
However, after Saturday’s game, only one team will remain atop the Ivy standings.
And if that team can close out the rest of its conference season without a loss, it will receive the coveted automatic bid to November’s NCAA Tournament. Since the Ivy League does not stage a season-ending conference tournament, Saturday’s game will be just like the Ivy Championship, with both teams putting it
all out there in a grand attempt to claim the victory.
The Crimson is playing by far its best hockey of the season. After two tough defeats to No. 3 Maryland and No. 13 Richmond, Harvard has won seven of its last eight games, outscoring its opponents 30-5 over that stretch.
One of the reasons for this success has been the return of senior tri-captain Kate McDavitt. After shaking off the rust against Maryland, McDavitt has been on a tear of late, scoring seven goals over the last eight games.
Junior midfielder Shelley Maasdorp has also made a stellar return from the sidelines, and her latest scoring outburst recently earned her Ivy League Player of the Week honors.
However, while Maasdorp and McDavitt certainly put up some great statistics, the key to this offense has been its balanced attack.
Senior Liz Andrews, senior Tiffany Egnaczyk and sophomore Jen McDavitt have also been putting the ball into the goal with ease as of late.
With five proven scorers on the team, Harvard clearly has an attack that will be tough to shut down.
“When we move off the ball, we do really well. Our offense is really able to put it together,” Maasdorp said. “In order to win, we will have to play our typical second-half offensive game from minute one against Princeton.”
While the offense is finally starting to come together, the Crimson defense has been at its best for quite some time. Senior tri-captain Jen Ahn has been leading the charge along with her fellow tri-captain, senior goalkeeper Katie Zacarian. Zacarian and Ahn are the chief reasons that Harvard has held its opponents to a mere 0.5 goals per game scoring average since the beginning of October.
“Nobody’s going to shut us out, but we have got to shut them out. It’s going to be really important that we play defense well,” Egnaczyk said.
The Tigers are clearly the team to beat in the Ivy League. The reigning Ivy Champions are the No. 8 team in the nation, and their most recent wins show that they are a force to be reckoned with. With only one conference game—at Penn—remaining on their schedule after Saturday’s showdown, the Tigers will be putting all of their energy into this game.
With 29 straight wins against Ivy opponents, a streak that started in 1999, Princeton’s dominance has hindered the success of every other team in the conference.
The strength of this year’s Ivy powerhouse is certainly its defense.
Freshman goalkeeper Allison Nemeth has been stellar all season with a 7-0 record and a 0.82 goals against average. A lock for Ivy Rookie of the Year honors, Nemeth has been nearly unstoppable, and the Crimson will have to work hard to find a weakness in her style of play.
The Tigers also feature a fairly balanced scoring attack, with four players scoring in double figures for the season. Senior Claire Miller and junior Lizzie Black lead the team in goals with six each.
Saturday’s game will be the biggest of the season. Both teams feature amazing defenses and while both can score, the Crimson have definitely been doing more of it as of late.
This game should be as even as it gets, and the winner will walk away sitting in the driver’s seat of a car destined not only for the Ivy League Championship, but for the NCAA Tournament as well.
“Princeton’s always got a great team, and this is always a great game. We just want to do everything we can to bring home an Ivy Championship,” said Egnaczyk.
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