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With 16 games on the schedule this season, No. 14 Harvard field hockey only has eight battles left. Most recently, it drew the losing straw in a double-overtime quarrel with No. 4 Duke University — its only loss since a one-goal defeat to No. 7 University of Virginia back in early September. Over the first month of the campaign, the Crimson has been building up strength for its imminent Ivy League season.
Though known for its defense, Harvard has picked up its offensive stride during a three-game winning streak, tallying an impressive ten goals on the board across the games. The team has been working to create depth in its forward line by having more players that can score goals and create a threat in the circle — and the Crimson is doing just that. At the halfway mark for this season, it already has 18 goals on the score sheet, more than half of last season’s total of 33.
Goals have been distributed across an array of players, something very new to the Crimson. In the past, only one to two sticks have had consistent luck with finding the back of the net. For instance, in 2022, then-first-year Bronte-May Brough racked up 12 goals to take the team lead, followed by then-junior midfielder Siofra Murdoch at five goals. A similar story was written in the team’s historic 2021 season, with Hannah Pearce ‘22 in first place with 14 goals followed by current team captain, senior defender Mazarine Broze, in second place with three goals. So far this season, nine different players have scored at least once, with the top three scorers split between three to four goals each.
“The last two seasons, we've had individual scoring off of a lot of set plays, and I've never seen this team score so much in open play — it's really exciting,” reflected junior captain and midfielder Emily Guckian. “Just to be scoring goals and not be leaving things for a one-nothing game — it's sort of unheard of for us.”
“We've been renowned as a pretty defensive team for my three years so far,” the captain continued. “But I think this year we've been doing so much work to connect from our defense through to the midfield up to the forwards — it’s resulted in a load of goals.”
Part of the reason why a wider range of players have had the chance to score is a result of increased passing and assists. That said, the points reflected in the statistics are a “team effort,” according to Guckian. The Weybridge, England native and her co-captain Broze have made it a point to develop the team’s culture and incorporate particular leadership values into every week.
“One big thing [Broze] and I have been working on this season is developing our team culture,” she shared. “We read this really cool book called Legacy over the summer…and we came up with sort of ten core team values.”
Each week, the team tries to embody a mantra of the week. For instance, one mantra the Crimson has is to keep a “blue head,” meaning to keep calm under high-pressure situations. By focusing on weekly values like so, Guckian, Broze, and their team aim to build a legacy that goes beyond their time as captains.
The Crimson — also known for putting up goals in the fourth quarter that lead to overtime — hope to use these team-building lessons to learn what can get it out of time crunches in the last seconds of a game.
“We have taken a few losses and [are trying to] learn what will help us to win in those final few seconds of the game where it's like small margins. I'm not sure we've quite found that yet. We just seem to be one play away.”
Though Harvard has not entered the make-or-break moments in its season just yet, the team will enter the key portion of its Ivy League season tomorrow evening. This will play an important role in whether the team will get a bid to the NCAA tournament later on in the season via the Ivy League Tournament.
“Winning the Ivy League lets us host the tournament, and if we then win that tournament, that's our bid to the NCAA tournament, which is our ultimate goal,” Guckian said. “I really think that taking on those top-ranked teams puts us in a great position to take on the likes of Princeton and Cornell.”
Tomorrow, Harvard will travel to enemy territory for a 5:00 p.m. EST game against Yale, returning to Cambridge on Sunday for a 1:00 p.m. EST matchup with Syracuse University. The games will be streamed on ESPN+.
— Staff writer Mairead B. Baker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on X @baker_mairead.
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