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Practice, preparation, and persistence have propelled the Harvard women’s lacrosse team to the beginning of what is sure to be a thrilling season. On Sunday, the Crimson will take on the Michigan Wolverines, opening their regular season away at the home of Big Blue.
Preparation began when the 2022 campaign ended. After a thrilling victory in the last game of Ivy League regular season play against Brown, the returning players and coaches turned their attention to the ways they could improve and come back stronger. The Crimson’s 2022 season (7-8, 4-3 Ivy) unfortunately concluded in the semifinals of the Ivy League Tournament with an away loss to Princeton. Looking forward to this upcoming season with a stellar returning senior class led by midfielders and captains Shea Jenkins, Stephanie Hong, and Meredith Langmuir, the team is headed in the right direction. Head Coach Devon Wills praised the hard work the team put in both on and off the field during the offseason to lead the group to this point.
“This has probably been the best fall I’ve had since being at Harvard,” Wills said.
“With [the team’s] energy, enthusiasm, and work ethic, they showed up and played hard every single day. They did exactly what we asked them to do. That really laid the foundation for preseason where they have brought the same intensity with a little more focus. They are really starting to dial in and focus on chemistry and connection with each other.”
With the team’s 2020 and 2021 seasons canceled due to Covid-19, last year was a challenge getting back into play after an extended break. With two new classes and nearly half the team playing their rookie season, it was a transition getting the first-years adjusted to the intensity and pace of college lacrosse.
Wills felt the same difficulties as the team transitioned back to practicing and playing after COVID. Looking at her team, she reflected upon the hardship of having a two year hiatus and how much more prepared the team is for the 2023 campaign.
“At the end of every season I try to write down some reflections on things I could have done better and things the team could’ve done. The piece that we lacked was the cohesion across the whole team. It finally feels like this year we have that full cohesion from senior all the way down to first-year,” Coach Wills said.
Whether this be through meals, excursions, or activities, building off-the-field bonds has helped the Crimson strengthen their on-field chemistry. The coaches have been impressed with the speed and tactical awareness that the team has shown through practice in such a short time since getting back to campus. The work in the off season was definitely not put to waste.
Coach Wills specifically praised the upperclassmen for their help in guiding the younger players with their experience. Jenkins and senior midfielder Grace Hulslander return for their last season with the Crimson after taking a year off to reclassify as current seniors. Their on-field performance last season earned them awards to the highest degree with First-Team All-Ivy honors, in addition to junior midfielder Callie Hem, who was also named to the First Team. Hulslander was selected unanimously after a dominant season with the now-senior putting up 19 goals and 6 assists from the midfield.
In addition, a strong junior class is looking to make their mark on the field this season through their goal scoring and attacking talent, led by Callie Hem and junior attacker Riley Campbell.
Hem is looking to build upon her outstanding 44 point season, including a team-leading 34 goals.
Campbell spoke highly of the team’s ambition, talent, and potential to go far this season at the Ivy League’s media day.
“No matter what, we have seven people on offense that can take [opponents] down. I think that this year we are really focused on transition in our midfield, our defense is strong, if not stronger, and our offense is going to be a big threat,” Campbell stated.
The Crimson are also loaded with talent on the defensive end. In net, star junior goalie Chloe Provenzano returns to the field looking to build upon her enormous success last season, when she started all 15 matches. The hard work and dedication of the defense and midfielders protecting her in the net will be key this season.
The depth of the team, coupled with the strength of the coaching staff led by Wills, associate head coach Becca Block, and assistant coach Kiley Anderson, will aid the Crimson in battling through a grueling 14 game regular season starting on Sunday and concluding away to Princeton on April 30th.
“If you want to be champions, then you have to practice like champions every day,” Wills said.
The Crimson is attacking the season head-on with this mentality that in order to be the best, the team has to be willing to put in the work and sacrifice necessary. Harvard will debut this winning mentality and energy in Ann Arbor this weekend, as they face Michigan at 12pm EST on Sunday. Tune into B1G+ to watch the Crimson live.
-Staff writer Hannah Bebar can be reached at email@example.com
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