Cahow’s nine saves kept the Crimson (2-7, 0-2 Ivy) close, but Harvard eventually fell 11-10 in overtime to No. 15 Penn (6-4, 3-1) to drop its seventh straight game.
Despite the final tally, the Crimson turned in one of its best performances of the season in the losing effort, all but keeping pace with the Quakers.
Freshman attack Tara Schoen set the scoring pace with the second hat trick of her young career. Her three goals came uninterrupted in the second half, as she led Harvard back to tie the game with 12:33 to play after having trailed 9-6.
After Penn took a 10-9 lead with less than 10 minutes to go, junior midfielder Allie Kaveney fed the ball to sophomore attack Liz Gamble, who swept across the crease, firing a shot across her body to tie the game at 10. A critical save by Cahow against an unguarded Quaker attacker kept the Crimson’s hopes alive as the game went to overtime.
As close as Harvard came, Penn’s winning goal came with 7.5 seconds remaining in the first of two overtime periods. The Quakers won the face-off to start the second overtime period, and stalled as the clock dwindled down to zero. The Crimson was able to strip the ball with 20 seconds left in the game, but failed to get a shot off in time.
“I just think today is especially hard because we were so close that it makes it personally a lot harder to walk off this field,” freshman defender Alexandra Jacobs said.
Aside from the four-goal deficit Schoen helped Harvard erase, the Crimson stayed close with Penn for most of the afternoon. The game was tied on six different occasions, but Penn went on two huge runs, one of three goals, and another of four, that could have crushed the Crimson’s spirits. They didn’t.
With the game tied at 5-5 with 24:35 remaining, Harvard turned the ball over on a botched clear. Penn’s Chrissy Muller scooped up the ground ball and found the Quakers’ leading scorer, Ali Ryan, wide open on a backdoor cut, and Ryan scored the first of her three second-half goals. The Quakers weren’t done there. Penn ripped off another three consecutive goals, going on a 4-0 run overall to take the lead at 9-5.
Enter Schoen. After Kaveney scored Harvard’s sixth goal of the game on a free-position shot, Schoen went on a run of her own, scoring twice on free-position shots to match the Quakers at 9-9. Kaveney finished with two goals and an assist in the game.
“This was the first time our team has come back from being down four goals,” Harvard coach Sarah Nelson said. “We had some freshmen on the field who were really getting it done, Tara especially, and that three-goal run she had to bring us back was unbelievable...it was an incredible effort by everyone, but this is the best our attack has looked the entire season.”
Gamble and Kaveney each contributed two goals, and senior midfielders Casey Owens and Elaine Belitsos and freshman midfielder Natalie Curtis added one each.
While the loss was the Crimson’s seventh in a row, morale on the sidelines was high after the game. For a team that has dealt with disappointment all season, taking Penn to overtime was no small accomplishment.
“I mean, it’s really hard to say right now, because we just lost, but I think that we’re definitely headed in the right direction,” Jacobs said.
The optimism that other players shared with Jacobs reflected that of their coach.
“I don’t see this as a setback...we all hate losing, but I see this as a huge step forward for our team,” Nelson said. “To have a tie with Penn, a ranked team, to go into overtime, and lose by one goal, that’s huge. That is huge for our program. So to take the positives, we had an attack out there that was calm and settled in possessing the ball, and just played pretty lacrosse, and you know what, these are going to start going our way.”