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Women’s Lacrosse Sees Tight Loss to Duke, 15-13, Bounces Back Against High Point, 22-5

The Harvard women's lacrosse team posted mixed results on its spring break road trip.
The Harvard women's lacrosse team posted mixed results on its spring break road trip. By Brendan J. Chapuis
By Hannah Bebar and Laura Connor, Crimson Staff Writers

The Harvard women's lacrosse team (5-1, 1-0 Ivy) competed in two away games this past week. Despite the team’s first loss of the season, 15-13 to the Duke Blue Devils (4-3), the Crimson returned from North Carolina after an explosive 22-5 win against the High Point Panthers (4-3) in the two teams’ first ever matchup.

The game in Durham on Tuesday was a nail-biter, with the lead constantly shifting between Harvard and Duke. The teams were tied 3-3 after the first quarter, and 7-7 with under two minutes in the first half, but the Crimson scored two goals to pull ahead 9-7 headed into the break. After the third quarter, the teams were gridlocked at 12-12, but the Blue Devils pulled ahead in the final seven minutes of the game. The team scored four goals in the fourth quarter while Harvard was only able to put one in the back of the net.

Senior captain Riley Campbell, who recorded her 100th career point after her hat-trick against Duke, highlighted the energy of the game. She characterized it as a combination of excitement and heightened emotion.

“Duke was a very exciting game, up there with Brown – but nothing beats our Brown game,” she said. “I think right off the bat, Stella Shea, one of our freshmen, set the tone with two quick goals, but they were a really good team and a good opponent. There were a lot of emotions because there are two girls on that team that were on Harvard last year taking their fifth year out there. So there was just a lot going on. But definitely a lot of positives that came out of that. People stepped up at the right moments.”

Senior midfielder Maddie Barkate also emphasized the impact of seeing her former teammates, Grace Hulslander and Maggie McCarthy, both of whom are playing their fifth seasons for the Blue Devils.

“It was great to see them,” she said. “Obviously we wish we won – it's always great to beat old players. Maggie and Grace are amazing people and outstanding athletes. They are both great teammates and great leaders, and I’m sad we can’t do fifth years at Harvard because I would have loved to play with them more. Seeing them was a special experience and I think it was even special for some of the younger players because they had a chance to meet a couple of the girls we always talk about.”

The Crimson’s struggles in the second half, which ultimately cost it the victory, were due to a lack of possessions off of the draw.

“We kind of let them creep back in the second half, and it ended up getting away from us,” Campbell said. “Honestly, we walked away from that game with our heads up. We were really proud of how we played it. It just felt unlucky. We weren't winning draws, but we had a lot of defensive stops. They scored 15 goals on us, but they also had possession of the ball a lot more than 15 times. So that's a testament to our defense, which we're still working on. We walked away knowing that we have a lot to learn from that game. But we were still really happy and proud of ourselves.”

Campbell highlighted the importance of possession moving forward, and that it will focus on securing more draw controls heading into league play. Securing the draw is essential as it allows the midfield to feed the ball to the strong offensive line, which – after its early-season performance – is the third best-scoring offense in the country.

The squad will look to bounce back against No. 10 UPenn this weekend.
The squad will look to bounce back against No. 10 UPenn this weekend. By Brendan J. Chapuis

“One of our focuses is definitely draw controls,” Campbell explained. “Duke was a game of possessions. Whoever had the ball more was going to win that game in the end. So something we're working on is getting possession of the ball off the draw, working with Maddie, our draw taker, and the people on the circle, communicating through what we're seeing, making mid-game adjustments. I think that that's definitely an area that we have a lot of room to improve. We have a really high scoring offense this year and we can't score if we don't have the ball. So once we get it in our offensive end, we're really making things happen. But it's just going to be about getting the ball.”

The loss served to fuel the team as it headed down to High Point, North Carolina to take on the High Point Panthers. Harvard started off hot, scoring the first six goals of the game. The Crimson showcased the depth of its bench, but its efforts were championed by Campbell – who tallied nine points with six goals and three assists – sophomore midfielder Charlotte Hodgson, who scored twice and notched four caused turnovers, and Barkate, who secured eight draw controls and had four goals of her own. Senior attacker Callie Hem also contributed four goals to the win.

“​​We have a lot of leaders on the field,” Campbell said. “We have a lot of upperclassmen who are able to set the tone. And if after our first loss there is that fear that people are going to be down and, you know, not have the right attitude afterwards. But honestly, our team this year, it's different than any year I've been on this team is, you know, there's great attitudes. We never have doubts in ourselves.”

The Crimson leadership – which permeated past just its captains and the seniors – built up the momentum for the team to enter the game against the Panthers with a tenacious attitude. Barkate discussed the positive mental mindset among the team’s members as it headed into High Point.

“We’ve said that a loss is sometimes the best thing for a team because it allows us to be challenged and sets us up for improvement, which is obviously very important with a bunch of Ivy League games coming up,” she said. “We wish we had won, but we are happy that we had the chance to bounce back with a big win against High Point.”

Campbell similarly discussed the team’s resilience after the loss to the Blue Devils.

“Before the game, we said that High Point was going to be our biggest game because it was going to show how we respond, being that Duke was our first loss,” Campbell explained. “So we said that we wanted to just come out as strong as possible, put as many goals in the back of the net and limit their scoring offense, which we were able to do.”

Headed down to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania this weekend to take on the UPenn Quakers, Harvard hopes to bring the energy from its win against High Point and to focus on itself, rather than focus any energy on the opponent. The Crimson lost to UPenn twice last season, once in the regular season and again in a season-ending loss during the Ivy League Tournament. The Quakers went on to win the 2023 Ivy Tournament. The team is ranked No.10 in the country, according to USA Lacrosse.

“We're focusing on just sticking to the fundamentals and not letting the moment get too big for us,” Campbell said. “It doesn't matter who we're playing, it needs to be about us and perfecting our game.”

Barkate similarly shared that despite the history, Harvard plans to enter the UPenn matchup focused on “playing Harvard lacrosse.”

“It’s no secret that we have a bone to pick with them because they ended our season last year, but we feel very grateful that we get to play them again and continue to play tough teams in the Ivy League,” said the senior drawtaker. “But we have to treat it like any other game. They’re a different team and we’re a different team, even though it might mean a little more to some of the older girls. We’re more just focused on, like we did in the High Point game, playing Harvard lacrosse and staying sharp. Games aren’t only won in the 60 minutes they’re played but in all the preparation that goes into them. So that’s what we’re focused on.”

The Crimson will travel to Philadelphia to take on the Penn Quakers this Saturday, and the first whistle will blow at 12:00 p.m. The game will also be streamed on ESPN+.

—Staff writer Hannah Bebar can be reached at hannah.bebar@thecrimson.com

—Staff writer Laura Connor can be reached at laura.connor@thecrimson.com

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