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Harvard women’s lacrosse faced two strong opponents in the opening two weekends of play: the No. 21 University of Michigan Wolverines and the Georgetown University Hoyas. The Crimson battled through the two hard-fought games in freezing temperatures, ultimately coming out unsuccessful in both competitions.
Harvard traveled westward to face the Wolverines to kick off its 2023 campaign. The Big Blue entered the game with three previous games under its belt and more experience on its side. However, the momentum was fiercely swept by an eager Crimson side, notching the first goal of the season from first-year midfielder Charlotte Hodgson. The relentless pressure and pace did not prove enough on the day, with the final score 17-10 in favor of the Big Blue. Junior midfielder Riley Campbell felt there was a lot to learn from this game, as well as a good response to pressure.
“Michigan was a super aggressive team and we were able to respond and also be aggressive, especially on the draw. Maddie Barkate has been killing it and really stepping up,” Campbell said.
Junior midfielder Maddie Barkate stepped in to take the draws after senior midfielder Grace Hulslander was sidelined due to injury in the first minutes of play. The team faced adversity throughout the game but came away with areas to improve and sharpen that will ultimately make a big difference in the coming games.
The Crimson did not disappoint, with chances created edging Michigan in number of shots at 34 to 26. Head coach Devon Wills is looking for ways for the team to be more clinical in their approach to converting on these chances — in regards to the opening two games, Wills is proud of the team overall for handling adversity, but looks for minor improvements that can create significant changes.
“I think the team responded really well in Georgetown to everything that happened in Michigan and improved a lot,” the head coach reflected. “I think going into these next games we need to focus on our shooting and finding ways to put pressure on the opposing attackers’ hands.”
On Saturday, the Crimson opened home play against the Hoyas. The game was a back-and-forth frenzy of goal scoring. Harvard’s pressure was incessant, responding with big tying goals late in the third period by junior midfielder Ilana Kofman and late in the fourth period by sophomore attacker Caroline Mullahy. Georgetown found the game winner with under two minutes left in the game, making the final score 10-9 in favor of the Hoyas.
According to Coach Wills, there were many positives in the match despite the loss.
“We have had a lot of contributors already. It is not the case that we are just having two goal scorers, it is our first-years that are contributing a lot,” Wills said.
First-year midfielder Hannah Shields stepped up to score two crucial goals against the Hoyas, the first goal tying the game in the second and the other putting the Crimson up 5-4. Shields was not alone in contributing a pair of goals to the game on Saturday. Campbell and junior midfielder Callie Hem also scored twice for the Crimson, with Campbell notching two assists driving at the opponents, and picking and threading passes on the attack. Campbell and Hem lead the team in goals at four each.
Coach Wills further commented on the team’s mentality through these two games and next steps leading into its commencement of Ivy competition against Brown this weekend.
“It’s tough to play an Ivy game this early, so there is not a ton of information on either side. We are just trying to prepare for anything and everything just because it is so early in both of our seasons,” Wills said.
“We are trying to get the team to feel confident and see the growth that they made. The team is still trying to figure out its identity, especially after some big personnel losses. It takes a couple games to get that rhythm, fill those voids, and see who is going to step up.”
Campbell echoed the sentiments of using the first two games as conference learning experiences to prepare the team for the battle that is Ivy League play.
“We know that Brown is going to come out on Saturday looking for revenge after last year, but we know how important this game is for the rest of our season and playing in the Ivy League,” Campbell stated. “I think we are going into it with a super focused and driven mentality.”
The Crimson will travel to the Bay State to play Brown this Saturday at 1:00 p.m. EST on ESPN+. The game will reflect an important response following the opening games that will kickstart the beginning of what the team and fans hope to be a successful 2023 Ivy League campaign.
-Staff writer Hannah Bebar can be reached at email@example.com
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