The Harvard field hockey team (7-6, 3-2 Ivy) fell out of first place in the Ivy League standings with a heartbreaking loss on Saturday to Princeton (7-7, 4-1).
The Crimson entered the game in a five-way tie for first place in the Ancient Eight standings, giving the team its best opportunity in recent history to win a title. But the dream ultimately fell short with the 4-1 loss at Jordan Field.
Heading into the game Harvard was excited for the chance to sustain its first place standing.
“We were really excited to try to keep first place in the Ivy League,” co-captain Carly Dickson said. “It’s always a great game against Princeton, since they are a strong team this year and we were excited to have a good game against them.”
The Crimson came out strong in the first 15 minutes and controlled the momentum, but it was unable to take the lead before giving up corner opportunities to the Tigers.
“We had some really good preparation," Harvard coach Sue Caples said. "[Going into the match], and in the first 15 minutes or so, it was a great game and we controlled a lot of the momentum. Then we gave up some corners and we kind of got back on our heels a bit.”
Princeton turned the momentum of the game with its aggressive offense, leading to several scoring opportunities. That resulted in freshman Allison Evans firing a shot past Crimson goalie Cynthia Tassopoulos 19 minutes into the contest.
The Tigers mounted another attack with less than eight minutes remaining in the half as they entered the Harvard zone. The Crimson defense appeared to make a clean stop with a good defensive play, only to have the referee award Princeton a penalty shot.
Tigers junior Charlotte Krause entered the penalty corner and passed to freshman Sydney Kirby, who placed the ball down for sophomore Amanda Bird. Bird placed the ball past the left side of the goalie for the score, resulting in a 2-0 Princeton lead with seven and a half minutes in the half.
“They got a couple of corners in a row and that was what I think caused the momentum shift,” Dickson said. “I wish we had gotten a goal in the first 15 minutes when we were playing so well because I think we would have kept the momentum if that happened.”
The score remained 2-0 heading into halftime. The Crimson knew the next goal in the second half would be crucial to the outcome of the contest.
“I think we were okay going into halftime,” Caples said. “We went into halftime with it being 2-0, and we knew that the next goal in a 2-0 game would be pretty important.”
The Tigers came out and once again controlled possession of the ball, leading to two penalty corners. That gave them a 9-1 penalty corner advantage at that point in the game. Princeton had several shots on goal but Harvard was able to hold on in the first seven minutes of the half and keep the game close.
The Tigers, though, were able to mount another attack, as Evans was able to sneak into the right side of the zone and get off a good shot. Evans was denied by a great diving save by Tassopoulos, but the ball bounded right back to Evans, who took the rebound and raised a shot over the fallen Tassopoulos into the net, giving the Tigers a commanding 3-0 lead that deflated the Crimson.
“[The goal] put them up, 3-0, and that was tough,” Caples said. “It spiraled a little bit on us and we played back on our heels instead of attacking. We made some skill error and just lost our momentum and at that point we need to stay disciplined in our fundamentals and execute the game plan to dig ourselves [but] we weren’t able to get anything going.”
Princeton stretched the lead to four as senior Rachel Neufeld scored off a rebound which effectively ended Harvard’s hopes of capturing the Ivy League title.
Crimson freshman Noel Painter scored two minutes later making the score 4-1, but ultimately the goal was not enough to spark a comeback.
Despite missing out on the Ivy League title, Harvard will look to rebound and finish out the season strong.
“Princeton is a strong team but, you know, we are close and there is still a lot of work to be done for us,” Caples said. “I look forward to see how we respond tomorrow [against Colgate].”