The Harvard field hockey team prepared for Tuesday evening’s game the same as always, high-fiving each player as her name was announced at midfield, with each member yelling the team’s traditional “H-F-H” cheer before the starting whistle sounded.
Following the Crimson’s only losses of the season last week, the energy seemed different as Harvard took the field.
Displaying relentlessness from the start, the Crimson (6-2, 1-1 Ivy) scored the first of six goals within the first two minutes of play against UMass Lowell (4-6) to defeat the River Hawks, 6-0, at Jordan Field. Junior back Elizabeth Jacobson earned her first career hat trick with Harvard’s fourth, fifth, and sixth strikes of the first half.
“We wanted to get back on a winning streak,” co-captain Caitlin Rea said. “We knew how good it felt. Our rule this season is [to capitalize on the] first five minutes.”
The Crimson demonstrated just what that rule meant, scoring all of its goals in the first 25 minutes and finishing the first half with 13 shots in total. Sophomore Marissa Balleza scored her sixth goal of the season just after the one-minute mark, setting the tone for the team.
“We went hard [at the beginning] and it worked,” Rea said. “I think that gave us the momentum for the next 70 minutes. With our first goal, we put them on their heels, which is always our aim. Start strong, make them a little bit scared, and then just go hard.”
Senior Kaitlyn Boudah deftly located the back of the net with the next two goals (her third and fourth of the season). The forward led her teammates by pressuring the ball in UMass Lowell’s defensive third to rebound Balleza’s shot for her first score of the game.
After an effortless pass from freshman midfielder Ellie Cookson, Boudah scored her second goal of the evening to take Harvard to 3-0 five minutes later.
“We were able to get on the board very early which gave us comfort,” Harvard coach Tjerk van Herwaarden said. “But I think we came out today with an attitude not to lose and to go for it. Take some risk.”
Not satisfied with its early lead, the Crimson players continued to pressure the ball, and remain aggressive on the field.
“After our [loss] against Penn, we sat down and went through the things we had to work on,” Rea said. “We had one practice, and we decided we were going to make ourselves confident again and get ready to play.”
Perhaps that mentality guided Jacobson during her hat trick against the River Hawks. The versatile back put in her second, third, and fourth goals of the season between 18:24 and 24:23 of the first half.
“It felt great to finish the passes that I get from the backfield,” Jacobson said. “It’s really nice to be able to contribute like that, because they do all the hard work.”
Feeling confident to empty the Crimson bench in the second half, van Herwaarden substituted at multiple positions, yet his team kept the visitors on their toes. The new line of players fired eight shots, maintaining constant pressure on the offensive end.
“We have a team of girls who can play a lot of positions,” Rea said. “When people got subbed in, they brought a different aspect to the game and everyone pushed hard. It was great to see everyone on the field and everyone get to play.”
According to Rea, her teammates feel relaxed and confident as they approach the midway point of their regular season. Harvard will need to maintain this focus and extend its win streak against Brown (4-2, 0-2) and Boston University (4-4).
“The mentality was to have fun, and that always works for us,” Rea said. “When you have fun, you don’t overthink and I think that’s one thing we did in the last two games. We just need to keep it up.”
Staff writer Orlea L. Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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