Defense Key for F. Hockey To Win

The Harvard field hockey team is on a roll.

In today’s match-up against No. 12 Northeastern, the Crimson (7-2, 2-0 Ivy) brings a four-game winning streak to the table. A string of games that started with a tough 3-2 victory over No. 13 Connecticut has turned into an offensive barrage that has yet to be stopped, with Harvard outscoring its opponents 14-1 over the last three games. All three were Crimson victories, coming against Brown, New Hampshire and Providence.

Much of the success over the last four contests can be attributed to the return of two crucial Harvard players from injury. Junior midfielder Shelley Maasdorp and senior forward Kate McDavitt have keyed the offensive onslaught.

In the Crimson’s close match against Connecticut, McDavitt scored the eventual game-winning goal in her first game back from injury. Maasdorp, who is still playing with a tender hamstring, followed suit against Brown and scored the lone goal of the match to propel Harvard to victory.  

McDavitt and Maasdorp are not the only members of the Crimson that have performed well over the last four games. Senior midfielder Liz Andrews continues to score almost on command, with three goals in the last two games.

However, the best player on the field—though it may not show up in the box score—has been tri-captain and senior back Jen Ahn. Ahn has played defense at a high level from the outset of the season. And while her defensive intensity continues to fluster her opponents, it is her team-friendly approach on offense that has proven unstoppable.  

Ahn leads the team with eight assists, and has performed in spectacular fashion on almost every penalty corner the Crimson has taken. In Saturday’s 7-0 victory over Providence, Ahn notched the first goal of her collegiate career with an unassisted score to start off the second half.

“Jen Ahn is the most reliable defender ever,” Maasdorp said. “As her teammate, when the ball comes to her, I do not worry because she will always do something constructive with it. She is just a terrific player.”

After a recent loss to No. 4 Duke, Northeastern has rebounded well, defeating two Ivy League opponents in their last two games. With a 2-1 victory over Dartmouth and a 6-1 pasting of Brown, the Huskies have gradually become a force to be feared.

By far, the greatest threat for the Northeastern offense is junior forward Mari Creatini. Creatini leads the nation in points and goals, with 49 and 20, respectively. Though field hockey attacks are usually defined by a balance among teammates, Creatini has found a way to consistently put the ball in the goal, and she has been nearly unstoppable this season.

Excluding the shutout at the hands of Duke, Creatini has scored at least one point per game for more than a month. Even more impressive is Creatini’s unbelievable shot percentage of 55 percent.

“I have complete confidence in our defense,” junior goalie Aliaa Remtilla said. “Katie Zacarian is an awesome goalie and she and the rest of our backfield will take care of any of [Northeastern’s] chances on net.”

Both teams today have explosive offenses that continue to gain momentum with each outstanding performance. With McDavitt, Maasdorp and Andrews at the helm, the Crimson will has the firepower necessary to combat Northeastern’s one-woman show. The key for each team will be the intensity with which they play in the defensive zone, and Harvard has Ahn to lead the way.