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Field Hockey Undefeated in Opening Weekend

Pearce-ing the Defense
Sophomore back Hannah Pearce takes control of possession in the Crimson's victory over Holy Cross.
 Zero. That’s the number of games the No. 15 Harvard field hockey team has lost this season, the number of points the team surrendered to Holy Cross and the exact number shots on goal the Crusaders tallied at the Sunday afternoon contest.

Over the course of the entire weekend, the Crimson team smoothly dispatched of the University of New Hampshire and Holy Cross in 4-1 and 4-0 matches, respectively.

The 2-0 start to the season follows the release of an August 21 pre-season poll by the National Field Hockey Coaches Association which ranked Harvard 15th in the nation among NCAA Division I teams. Within the Ivy League, the Crimson ranks second behind the perennial division rival Princeton, ranked 10th in the national poll.

The weekend represented one the best spurts of junior midfielder Bente van Vlijmen’s career on Harvard as the third-year netted five shots across two games. For her efforts, van Vlijmen was named the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week. Across the rest of the Ancient Eight, the two time All-American is the only player to have more than one goal so far in the 2018 season.

“It’s incredibly humbling to be awarded the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week but I think it really shows the collective talent of our team this year,” van Vlijmen said. “We’ve been able to show amazing energy towards our opponent’s goal and this weekend we really dominated Holy Cross. On the other hand, however, we can improve our circle efficiency and secure … [goals] early on in the game and [remain] consistent until the very last second.”

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HARVARD 4, HOLY CROSS 0

Sunday’s match against the Crusaders (0-3) put on full display the returning offensive prowess of the Crimson and proved the team hosts the defense to match. On the offensive half of play, Harvard (2-0) returns it’s top four scorers from last season: sophomore Mimi Tarrant, van Vlijmen, co-captain Kathleen Young and junior Maddie Earle. The quartet also all rank within the top six of returning Ivy League shooters.

For Holy Cross, the story could not be more opposite. Aside from its goalie, the team roster Sunday included 18 players. Across all five areas of individual statistical measurement in the box score — shooting percentage, shots on goal, goals, assists and defensive saves — these players registered a goose egg in every category, save one. The only measurable statistic on the box score for Sunday’s matchup was a single defensive save by Kate O’Donnell.

"Limiting Holy Cross's offensive opportunities was a team effort," Young said. "Our strong, veteran defensive line did an incredible job keeping them out of our half and our midfield and forwards played with high energy that forced turnovers."

Meanwhile Crusader goalie Marcia LaPlante earned her spot between the pipes, saving 28 of the Crimson’s 44-shot onslaught over the course of the 70 minutes of play. But missing four of the 33 shots on net was enough to hand Harvard the victory.

Three of the Crimson’s four netted points were the product of van Vlijmen, who recorded her second career hat trick in the contest and sixth career multi goal effort. Junior Casey Allen supplemented the shooting seminar with two assists. On penalty comers, Harvard outpaced the visitors 11-0. The only other woman in Crimson to tally a goal was Earle, who found the net 30:59 into play — closing out the half on a two point margin.

Junior Callie Rennyson freshman Ellie Shahbo split the time in the net as goalkeeper, but Rennyson took to the field first, earning her first career win and shutout in the contest. The 2-0 start to the season is the Crimson’s second in two years and the team extended their record against Holy Cross to 18-2.

“This game was different in the sense that we were very aggressive in our defensive pressing and could make quick turnovers once we stole the ball from Holy Cross,” van Vlijmen said. We were able to get the ball into their circle quickly and fired a lot of shots. Even though there should have been more goals, I think we did a great job utilizing our quickness and brains on the field.”

HARVARD 4, NEW HAMPSHIRE 1

Against the Crimson, the Wildcats (1-2) lead the series 23-14-1. On Friday, however, history did not help the home team.

Starting the 2018 season on the road, it was two goals by van Vlijmen that carried Harvard over its stout competition. The junior’s two goals added to the already 2-0 Crimson lead, established early in the match by sophomore Tessel Huibregtsen and Young. Huibregtsen also earned an assist, tallying her first career three-point game.

Overall, Harvard tallied eight more shots than the home team —14 shots to six, respectively — and maintained the 4-2 advantage in penalty corners.

New Hampshire’s lone goal was earned by Nicky Bajus with just 30 seconds remaining in the first half. Two players, Rachel Bossi and Katie Audino, shared the assist.

Senior goalkeeper Libby Manela saved goals four times throughout the match, equaling the defensive performance by the two Wildcat goalies, Madelyn McAteer and Kelsey Rudert.

Harvard's undefeated record will be tested again next week as the team faces off against American University and Maryland. 

"We're excited to be heading to Maryland this weekend," Young said. "It will be a fantastic opportunity for our team to test ourselves and play to our potential against two strong opponents."

 —Staff writer Cade Palmer can be reached at cade.palmer@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @THC_CadePalmer. 

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