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With five wins in their last seven games, the Harvard women’s lacrosse team is hitting its stride outside of Ivy competition. The Crimson picked up its first Ivy League win last Saturday, beating Dartmouth 13-11. The streak rolled on in a Tuesday matchup against Stonehill College, which the Crimson won 13-6. Today, the Crimson faced a 12-10 loss to Cornell, decreasing its Ivy record to 1-2. Coach Devon Wills spoke to the quality of both performances following a difficult start to the season.
“It is nice to see everyone gel better than I think they were in the first four games of the year,” Wills said. “We are trying to take it one game at a time — that is how we are going to control our own destiny.”
In last weekend’s matchup against Dartmouth, the defense had a standout performance. Wills was eager to praise senior defender Stephanie Hong for her work early in the first quarter thwarting Dartmouth defenders from getting any clear looks on goal. The Crimson kept the Big Green to only one goal for nearly two full quarters. First-year midfielder Charlotte Hodgson earned Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week honors with her dominating performance, tallying five ground balls and three-caused turnovers.
Senior captain and defensemen Shea Jenkins highlighted the work of her teammate, first-year defender Despina Giannakopoulous, for her incessant dedication and work that she puts in every day to make herself and the team better.
“I could accent Despina Giannakopoulos. She won her spot starting as a defender this season within the first couple of games,” Jenkins said. “The way she has developed since then has been incredible — she’s grown every day exponentially as a player, which is so exciting for her and the team.”
Coach Wills echoed similar sentiments of praise for the work of Giannakopoulos, which will be a huge asset to the squad this season heading into the next three years.
“Despina Giannakopoulos is a freshman but she is playing like a senior. She is causing chaos in the defense — knocking down passes, getting checks off, coming up with ground balls — she is really coming up with some key plays,” Wills stated.
Harvard’s ability to convert 30 shots-on-target to 13 goals is a credit to the offense and attacking threat the team poses. Behind some big moves dodging the Dartmouth defense, junior attacker Riley Campbell left the day with a team-leading point total of four goals and one assist. The team’s unity and buy-in during this critical part of the season are due to the variety of stellar performances by many different contributors. Even though she is a defender herself, Jenkins was not shy to praise the work of the midfielders and attackers for the work they have put in, resulting in the recent victories.
“I think the attackers have been showing themselves as players and taking more calculative risks,” Jenkins reflected. “The attack has really found [its] fight.”
Jenkins also praised the all-around effort and energy of the team following their first Ivy League win.
“The way we started the Dartmouth game we were ready to go. I think that is something that has not been consistent throughout the season. We have not always started this way,” Jenkins expressed. “Taking some of the things we learned and did to start the Dartmouth game could really push us forward throughout the season.”
“In the past couple of games we have been showing who we are and we have been getting better every game,” the captain continued. “I am really excited and optimistic about the future of the season.”
Today, Harvard traveled to Ithaca, N.Y. for a game against Cornell and defeated the Big Red 14-13, a critical advancement for Harvard’s Ivy League standing. With this win, the Crimson increased its Ivy record to 2-2, beginning its climb into the top three. With Cornell and Brown sitting in third and fourth place respectively, the Crimson now matches these records.
“We know that [Cornell is] a veteran team,” the head coach said. “They are always really gritty and scrappy with some big goal scorers and assisters. We definitely know we are going to have our hands full with them so it is just going to be a matter of who can put together a better 60 minutes.”
And the Crimson did just that: in a gritty, double-overtime match, a goal by junior midfielder Ilana Kofman gave Harvard the victory over Cornell and granted it a hard-fought, important advancement. The Crimson came back from a two-point deficit at the end of the third quarter with two goals within the first two minutes of the fourth quarter to tie it up. First-year midfielder Hannah Sheils scored at the halfway mark of the fourth to give Harvard the edge. With under two minutes left in the game, a Big Red goal sent the game into overtime, where Harvard eventually took the lead.
Next up, Harvard will host Yale on Saturday, April 15 at 3:30 p.m. for one of its final three regular-season games of the year. It will be streamed on ESPN+.
— Staff writer Hannah Bebar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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