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Harvard women’s lacrosse coach Carole Kleinfelder’s fabled career came to a disappointing end on Saturday, as the Crimson (3-11, 1-6 Ivy) fell to No. 13 Cornell 13-6.
Kleinfelder has recorded more wins—252—than any coach in collegiate women’s lacrosse history.
But her squad never threatened to extend the total to 253 as the Big Red (10-5, 4-3) dominated the pace of play and left little opportunity for Harvard to accomplish much of anything on the pitch.
The Crimson managed just 13 shots—its second-lowest total of the year—while turning the ball over a season-high 25 times, preventing the team from establishing any rhythm offensively.
For Harvard, these kinks in the armor were certainly not new but left the squad as vulnerable as ever before. The Crimson is 0-9 this season in games in which it attempted fewer than 20 shots.
Harvard managed just five shots in the first half, while the Big Red tallied nine goals during the same time frame. In all, Cornell hurled 34 shots.
“They were getting the draws and possession more than we were,” senior defender Bernadette Devine said. “So we didn’t really have any opportunities.”
Even when the Crimson did have the ball, the Big Red wouldn’t let Harvard anywhere near its net.
“We were hesitant because they were pressuring out,” said freshman attack Emma Millon, who is also a Crimson editor. “We didn’t want to force anything.”
Fourteen of the Crimson’s 25 turnovers came in the first half.
“In the first half we were struggling with their pressure and clearing the ball,” Devine said. “That was probably why most of our turnovers came in the first half.”
The Big Red’s dominant performance scooping up ground balls provided the final nail in the coffin, as Harvard managed to collect only 23 out of 66. Cornell’s success earned it extra possessions and translated into the additional shots that simply overwhelmed the Crimson defense.
“Ground balls are one of the most important aspects of the game,” Devine said. “Losing ground balls is disappointing. That is something on which we can beat them with our effort.”
Initially, Harvard lingered within striking position. It trailed just 2-1 after sophomore attack Bessie Clark hit the back of the net with 19:06 remaining in the first half.
But the next 15-and-a-half minutes belonged to the Big Red, which exploded to beat Crimson junior goaltender Laura Mancini five times, extending the lead to six.
“It’s hard to come back when a team scores a lot, but we’ve been in that situation a lot,” Millon said. “We were like ‘it’s our last game, so we’ve got nothing to lose’.”
But Cornell’s versatility on the attack proved fatal.
Unlike other Ivy League squads that tend to be predominantly right-handed and therefore more likely to attack from the right side, the Big Red features both left- and right-handed attackers, preventing opponents from cheating to cut off an advance along the right side.
“We had to change our defense yesterday and play them more square,” Devine said. “I think that took us a little longer to get adjusted to.”
Despite Cornell’s offensive outburst, Harvard showed signs of life as the half drew to a close, twice trading goals with the Big Red to move the score to 9-3 at the break.
But the second half opened with another Crimson letdown, as Cornell netted the period’s first two goals and three of its first four. After sophomore attack Casey Owens recorded her first of the game, the Big Red’s Lindsay Steinberg quickly restored the six-goal margin, scoring her fourth of the game just 24 seconds later.
But Harvard did not lose heart and turned in one of its best second-half performances of the season.
“We’ve been known as a first-half team,” Millon said. “But this half we were only outscored by one goal, so that was really big.”
The Crimson scored two of the game’s final three goals, with co-captain midfielder Katie Shaughnessy and sophomore attack Catherine Sproul each tallying in the comeback effort, but the drive was short-lived.
The Big Red defense shut down the Harvard attack when it mattered most, blanking the Crimson over the final eight-and-a-half minutes to seal the seven-goal victory.
“We got the ball down in our end but weren’t really getting shots off, so it was kind of back and forth,” Millon said. “We got a few turnovers, but then we’d turn it over again.”
—Staff writer Timothy J. McGinn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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