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“That spell of five minutes cost us three goals—that will not happen to us again,” said Tjerk van Herwaarden, head coach of No. 15 Harvard field hockey, speaking on the Harvard-Princeton game.
Since 2016, Harvard and Princeton have engaged in a back and forth battle for the Ivy League championship title. These two Ivies bring a higher level of competitiveness and rivalry to their annual meeting because this matchup carries more weight in determining championship status and the league’s automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.
Harvard claimed the title last year. Now, it is likely to shift back to Princeton, who remains undefeated in the Ivy League, despite both schools holding a current 12-4 overall record.
“We prepared really well for it,” the coach reflected. “We knew what to expect from Princeton, we knew what we had to do.”
For the first five minutes of the game, Harvard seemed to be in control. They were passing well and pressing onto Princeton’s defense. But it didn’t take long for Princeton to take control of the game—the Tigers' Grace Schulze managed to sneak behind Harvard’s defense, squeezing one right past Crimson gatekeeper Ellie Shahbo and into the net.
“I don't know what that was…I have never seen that happen to our team before, but for the next four or five minutes, we completely lost it,” van Herwaarden said.
Right after this sweet shot into the mesh, Princeton ripped two more penalty corners into Harvard’s goal, all in the first quarter of the game. Shahbo stopped another in the second quarter, but the Crimson struggled to press into Tiger territory.
“I think that was a good message for us that unfortunately happened at the wrong time in one of the biggest games of the year,” van Herwaarden reflected.
Despite the Tigers edging the Crimson in a 4-2 outcome, the score doesn’t do justice to how hard Harvard fought back to try and tie it up to 3-3 in the third quarter. But the Crimson wasn’t able to stop another Tiger fire past its defense.
The fighting didn’t stop for Harvard in its next Ivy battle. In its game against No. 24 Cornell University last week, a penalty stroke from junior Siofra Murdoch pushed the Crimson past the Big Red in overtime. This is Harvard’s third victory against a ranked opponent this season. Cornell trails Harvard in the top three of current Ivy League standings, with a 3-3 conference record. The Big Red also recently beat No. 4 Louisville in an incredible 2-0 game, marking one of the biggest victories in the Ivy League school’s program history.
Despite the power dynamic switch between Harvard and Princeton, Harvard has done remarkably this season given its fresh roster. The Crimson have a 12-4 record and 0.750 winning percent with its top two offensive point holders being a first-year and sophomore, Bronte-May Brough and Emily Guckian, respectively. In the Cornell game, Brough scored the first goal tallying a total of seven shots on goal, and Guckian had one shot on goal and one assist.
“I think what we’ve been doing so far has been the one thing that’s really worked for us,” the head coach reflected. “Same for Princeton, same for Cornell, which were tough opponents for us, but eventually we dominated most of the game.”
Van Herwaarden added that he’s seen these “younger players step up and be able to make a really big impact in a great deal of these high profile games.”
Some of these high profile games occurred earlier in the season. The Crimson began its 2022 campaign with four games against ranked opponents: No. 14 University of Connecticut, No. 2 University of Maryland, and Miami (OH) University and American University, who are both no longer in the top 25. They recorded two victories against the latter and suffered two losses against the two universities in the top 15.
The only other two losses for Harvard were against No. 11 St. Joseph’s (in a respectable 1-0 finish) and No. 7 Princeton. In both of these games, however, Harvard seemed to dominate, only struggling to find the back of the net.
“The games that we lost were all very competitive. The Maryland game, the Princeton game, the St. Joe's game—they were all good games that we eventually lost,” van Herwaarden said. “I think we know that we need to do a little bit more on the front field.”
It is looking likely that Princeton will garner the automatic bid into the NCAA tournament from the Ivy League, but Harvard has a chance to get a bid as well, meaning the two schools have a chance to face one another again this year. The NCAA Selection Show will air on Sunday night.
“We keep our fingers crossed for whatever might be next.”
Harvard will close out its regular season down in Providence, R.I. in a matchup against Brown University on Saturday, Nov. 5 at 12:30 PM EST.
–Staff writer Mairead B. Baker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @baker_mairead.
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