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Despite coming back from a three goal deficit to end the first half tied 5-5, a game that appeared to at first parallel the squad’s three-goal-down comeback against No. 4 Cornell, the Crimson squad was unable to pull off a second consecutive underdog victory, falling to the No. 18 Penn Quakers 15-9. Despite Harvard’s ability to even the score, the Quakers created a definitive four-goal lead in the third quarter that ultimately set the tone for the rest of play. The next two games against RV/No. 20 Princeton and RV/No. 19 Yale will be critical in determining Harvard’s fate in securing a place in the Ivy and NCAA Tournaments.
Play by both teams was markedly lower in caliber than in other games this season. Unforced errors were a hallmark of the game for both teams, and contributed to mistakes in the midfield clearing the ball, as well as technical mistakes on the attacking and defending ends. In the midfield both squads had trouble clearing the ball, with Penn going 18-23 and Harva43rd going 20-25. The Crimson’s ride, which has been a high point of play all season, contributed to Penn’s errors, but several times technical mistakes of sending too many men over or not recognizing the shot clock and running out of time to clear were the unnecessary culprits for both teams.
“I think that we are continuing to improve in a lot of respects, specifically in our six-on-six defense which was our strong point at Cornell,” senior SSDM Chase Yager noted. “But I think a lot of shortcomings in our middle of the field game, both in rides and clears with a handful of offsides and failed clears throughout the game, as well as shortcomings in our man-up and man-down play held us back this weekend.”
Defense has continued to be Harvard’s strong suit this season. Lockdown play by defenders like first-year Charlie Muller and sophomores Collin Bergstrom, Tommy Martinson and Martin Nelson, as well as SSDM/LSDM first-year Owen Guest, sophomores Andrew O’Berry and Ray Dearth, junior Greg Campisi, and Yager, has improved from game-to-game. Communication as well as the quickness in sending the slide and recovery has resulted in increased confidence in one-on-one defense, which has allowed Crimson defenders to take liberties and make off-ball plays.
Having this tight-knit unit is essential in slowing down and mitigating threats from other teams. However, an inability to win at the faceoff has translated into increased pressure on the defense and a greater number of opportunities for opponents on the offensive end. Winning possession outright at the faceoff X is not only essential for creating momentum, but for relieving the defense of having to shut down quick takes on fast plays. Harvard had its best performance at the faceoff, winning 13 of 27 – many of which were won in the scrum by first-year Matt Barraco, sophomore Andrew DeGennaro, or the wings.
On the offensive end, the Crimson’s play was rushed.. The offense is known for its ability to generate shots, but of the 46 taken, only 25 were on goal. Part of this was due to Penn’s ability to mitigate the Crimson’s outside shooting, which forced the attack to take subpar shots and force the ball into the middle, but it was also partially due to Harvard’s shot-selection, which saw players rush sets.
“We settled a little bit which gave their goalie confidence. Shot selection is something that we have been trying to focus on all year and it’s kind of come in waves – we’ve had some good games and some bad games – and today wasn’t one of our better performances,” noted senior captain and midfielder Nick Loring.
Giving Penn’s junior goalie Emmett Carroll confidence in the first quarter with these forced takes set the tone for the rest of play. Carroll stuffed 64% of the Crimson’s shots, many of which were easy stops, and this energy permeated into the rest of Penn’s defense.
“We got out-competed in this game. We had a little bit of fire under us in the Cornell game, and I don’t necessarily think we played with the same fire in us today,” Loring commented. “There were some good things to take away from this, but we’ve got to channel that energy again going into these next two games and we’ve got to get back on the horse.”
Looking towards the rest of the season, Harvard has two must-win games. The squad will travel to Princeton this weekend to face off against the Tigers, who were a dominant force early in the season. Princeton is touted for its shifty offense, which is quarterbacked by sophomore attacker Coulter Mackesy. 91 in white and orange will be a player to watch, and will be a tough matchup for the Crimson defense. The following weekend, Harvard will welcome Ancient Eight rival Yale to Jordan Field for the team’s last game of the season in a contest that might decide which team earns the fourth slot in the Ivy Tournament.
“Looking to Princeton, I think we need to just refocus on our fundamentals,” Yager stated. “We know how well we can play based on our performance against Cornell, so just executing the stuff that we practice throughout the week and playing into our strengths will be key for us moving forward. A couple of must-win games ahead of us so we have plenty motivating us for the rest of the season.”
The game against the Princeton Tigers will take place Saturday, April 22 at 1pm on Sherrerd Field in Princeton, NJ. The game will also be streamed live on ESPN+.
–Staff writer Katharine Forst can be reached at email@example.com
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