When sophomore midfielder Cat Caro scored to give the Princeton field hockey team a 1-0 lead over Harvard, the game was far from over. Forty five minutes of play remained and offered the Crimson more than enough time to press the Tigers’ defense and threaten to equalize.
But after Caro’s goal, it was Princeton that did more of the threatening. By recording nine second half shots compared to just two from Harvard, the Tigers (5-9, 4-1 Ivy) proved that the best defense is a solid offense and held on for a 1-0 victory over the Crimson (8-6, 2-3) in Princeton, N.J.
“We needed to come out with a more aggressive attitude,” senior midfielder Caitlin Rea said. “I feel that if we were capable of changing our attitude, we would have [had] more opportunities.”
The Crimson’s loss dropped the team below .500 in the Ivy League standings for the second time this season. With two games left in conference play, Harvard is tied for fifth in the Ancient Eight.
“This loss was tough to take,” Rea said. “However, we are mentally strong as a team this year. We are excited to continue to perform and play in the Ivy League.”
The game began with a flurry of attacks from the Tigers. In the first two minutes, Princeton earned a penalty corner and smacked two shots, including one that rebounded off the post.
“They came out really strong and were super aggressive, especially in the first half,” senior forward Noel Painter said. “Next time we need to step up sooner.”
Harvard’s defense soon responded, and the game settled into a defensive stalemate punctuated with substitutions instead of shots. After the Princeton’s burst of offense within the first 10 minutes, the teams combined for only four shots before the Tigers scored in the 31st minute.
Junior back Elizabeth Jacobson almost broke the stalemate in the 26th minute. Her shot on goal forced Princeton’s goalkeeper to make her first save of the game.
“I think the whole team held Princeton,” Jacobson said. “We stayed tight on our marks and had good communication in the back field.”
With four minutes left in the half, Caro finally broke the deadlock, scoring her fourth goal of the year. She collected the ball at the top of the circle and fired a backhanded shot that found the back of the net.
Just as in the first half, Princeton came out firing early in the second frame. In the 42nd minute, the Tigers peppered Crimson goalkeeper Issy Davies with several shots on net. But Davies repelled the attack to keep Harvard within one goal.
As the second half opened, the Crimson adopted a more offensive mindset. Still, Princeton managed this pressure with a bunched defensive unit. The Crimson mustered only two shots in the second half and none in the last 10 minutes of play.
“We competed more in the second half and maintained [our] attack,” Rea said. “Once we were more aggressive, we stepped in front of them and created more opportunities in our outletting...[but] the Tigers played solid defense in our offensive 25, making it hard for us to enter the circle.”
Princeton’s Sydney Kirby tormented the Harvard defense throughout the game. Although the senior midfielder did not score, she took six shots with three on target. As a team, Princeton recorded six attempts on goal.
The defeat continues an up-and-down pattern that has defined the Crimson’s season thus far. After starting the campaign with five consecutive wins, Harvard dropped four of the next five contests, including an Ancient Eight loss to Penn.
“We will need to stay focused and work on our game,” Jacobson said. “Having a strong practice on Monday is key.”
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