The Harvard women’s lacrosse team squared off against UMass Lowell Tuesday night in the Crimson’s final non-conference game of the season. Combining a strong offensive and defensive effort, Harvard handily defeated the Riverhawks, 17-6, in Harvard Stadium.
The Crimson (7-5, 3-1 Ivy League) entered the game against UMass Lowell (6-6, 0-3 America East) looking to bounce back after suffering its largest defeat of the season on Saturday at No. 7 Princeton. Having begun the season with promise, the 20-5 loss served as the low point of the team’s mid-season slump. With only three conference games remaining, Harvard looked to regain the lost momentum nearing the crucial conclusion of the season.
“I think it was a really good game to start off our last run of the season,” senior attacker Marisa Romeo said. “We have three huge games coming up, and we really needed this.”
It was the Crimson who struck first, as Romeo fired a goal through traffic to put her team up in the opening minutes of the first quarter. Romeo entered the game as the newest member of the program’s 200-point club. The Syracuse, N.Y., native is currently ranked eighth nationally with an average of 5.90 shots per game and has been named Ivy League Co-Offensive Player of the Week twice this season. Romeo added to the impressive finale of her collegiate career with three points and four assists in Tuesday’s matchup.
The early lead provided by Romeo was then built upon by efforts from sophomore teammates Keeley MacAfee and Nicole Baiocco. Jumping ahead of the Riverhawks, 3-0, in the first five minutes of play, the Crimson created a deficit from which UMass Lowell never recovered.
“A lot of people played and a lot of people really stepped up today,” Romeo said. “That’s huge, and it really helps to build our confidence.”
While the Riverhawks showed brief signs of potentially getting back into the game, Harvard quickly responded to, and overpowered, each threat made to its lead. A tight Crimson defense allowed just three goals in the opening 30 minutes of play, while the Harvard offense scored an impressive 12 goals before the half. Nine Crimson players would go on to put the ball in the net before the night ended.
“We had a lot of new people come in, including myself,” freshman attacker Hannah Keating said. “It was really fun to play with all the older and more experienced girls.”
Keating scored three goals on the night, one of which marked the first of her collegiate career. Returning from injury, the Gladwyne, Pa., native contributed greatly to Harvard’s victory.
“It’s amazing to finally be out there,” Keating said. “I almost cried it was so much fun.”
Keating was not alone in her notable performance, as two other players posted hat tricks for the Crimson. Romeo and MacAfee also scored three times each in the contest.
Leading Harvard in draw controls was sophomore midfielder Caroline Garrity. The Lynnfield, Mass., native recorded three on the night, in addition to scoring two goals.
The second period of play saw more competitive action, as UMass Lowell scored four goals to the Crimson’s five. However, the Riverhawks’ efforts fell short of a comeback, after the major setbacks they suffered early in the competition. UMass Lowell’s last boost ultimately proved to be too little too late against a Harvard team that did not falter throughout the entirety of the game.
The Crimson scored two of its second half goals by taking advantage of free position shots. One came from MacAfee to begin the period, and sophomore Marley Jenkins fired another in with 20 seconds remaining to cap off a strong win for Harvard.
With multiple players contributing to the team’s success, the sound victory against the team’s final non-conference opponent provided much needed confidence for the Crimson. Leading into the final stretch of the season, Harvard will look to capitalize on its win over the Riverhawks.
“We’re really looking to take everything we’ve learned from all the big games we’ve played this year against top ACC teams and apply that to these tough Ivy League opponents,” Romeo said. “We’re really hoping to learn how to keep a big lead, fight back in case we get down, and then build a lot of resilience along the way.”
Three final conference games and the Ivy League Tournament will close out the season for the Crimson, who is currently ranked third in the Ancient Eight.
“We’re really excited to Ivy’s,” Romeo said. “It’s always a lot of fun competition, and having new players on the field—fresh legs—that’s only going to help us so much.”