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Women’s Lacrosse Clinches 18-17 Comeback Victory Against No. 24 Brown

The Harvard women's lacrosse team clinched its 18-17 comeback victory against No. 24 Brown on Saturday.
The Harvard women's lacrosse team clinched its 18-17 comeback victory against No. 24 Brown on Saturday. By Brendan J. Chapuis
By Hannah Bebar and Isabel C. Smail, Crimson Staff Writers

After an explosive 4-0 start to the season, the Harvard women’s lacrosse team (4-0, 1-0 Ivy) opened Ivy League play on Jordan Field on Saturday with an exciting 18-17 comeback victory against the No. 24 Brown Bears (3-1, 0-1 Ivy).

Although Harvard managed to secure the win, the Crimson struggled to get into its groove during the first two quarters of play, as it faced significant foul trouble. The home team had four yellow cards and two green cards called against it —resulting in 10 minutes of woman-down play— in just the first half. Harvard had trouble defending against Brown’s strong offense, and looked particularly vulnerable on the back post during its zone-style defensive coverage.

At the end of the first quarter, the Crimson trailed Brown by two goals, 6-4. Throughout the first 15 minutes, Brown’s offense maintained fast-paced ball movement and kept the Harvard defenders scrambling. The Bear’s success was powered by six-foot-tall junior attacker Greta Criqui and senior captain attacker Mia Masacone. Both players managed to snipe four goals in just the first half, but then the Crimson’s defensive unit found its footing and kept both stars off the scoreboard for the rest of regulation play.

Carole Kleinfelder Head Coach Devon Wills commented on the beginning turmoil and swift coaching changes that ensued.

“Brown is really well coached. They had a lot of really tall targets which exploited our defense a bit,” Wills said. “They put us on our heels, but as the quarter went on, we needed to make an adjustment geared with our pressure.”

Harvard’s defense was tested during the first half as Brown maintained a majority of man-up possession time due to Crimson penalties. Harvard’s freshman defender Stella Shea had a breakthrough game, and was a bright spot in the man-down zone. Shea notched an impressive three caused turnovers and four ground balls during the contest. Shea was flanked by sophomore defender Despina Giannakopoulous and junior defensive-midfielder Annabel Child, who contributed defensively with two caused turnovers each. Their heads-up defense helped Harvard to regain offensive possession during critical moments that kept the squad alive during its difficult first half.

Defensively, the Crimson’s comeback was propelled by some huge highlight-reel saves made by senior goaltender Chloe Provenzano. The Parkland, FL native made 15 stellar saves against the Bears and held Brown to just a 33 percent conversion rate on eight-meter shots. Despite the challenge of facing the Bears’ elite offense, and playing down a player during the extensive foul times, Harvard entered the second half of the game down by just five goals, 13-8.

“The team believes in each other and even at halftime when we were down by five, I think they were all completely composed and knew what they needed to do to get back in it,” Coach Wills added.

The squad will be on the road this weekend for its games against Duke and High Point.
The squad will be on the road this weekend for its games against Duke and High Point. By Brendan J. Chapuis

Offensively, the Harvard Crimson had an enormous surge in the fourth quarter, scoring seven goals to secure the win. Senior captain Riley Campbell led the comeback charge, scoring four out of her five goals in the final quarter, while also snagging two critical draw controls in the last minute of play. Callie Hem, a senior attacker, also had a standout game. The Needham, MA native racked up five goals and three assists, spurring the Crimson’s effort with a total of eight points. Hem’s outstanding performance earned her the title of Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week. Sophomore midfielder Charlotte Hodgson also notched three goals of her own and recorded six noteworthy draw controls to add to the Crimson’s success. Harvard’s offense had a remarkable 100 percent success rate on its five free position opportunities.

“The grit, heart, and resilience that our team showed on Saturday was so incredible,” said senior attacker and captain Ilana Kofman. “There wasn’t a moment a single player or coach showed doubt at all.”

During the final 15 minutes of play, the Crimson dominantly outscored the Brown Bears 7-1. Harvard excelled in the role of the underdog, taking its first lead in the final ten seconds of the game when Hem scored the team’s 18th goal. With this win, Wills, now 4-0 on the season, has led her squad to its most successful start since its run for the national championship in 1992. The win also clinched the team’s first top-25 national ranking of the season, sending it to the No. 24 spot, and accelerating its position to the top half of the competitive Ivy League conference rankings.

Kofman reflected on the game with both excitement and eagerness to learn from the first Ivy league contest.

“We came out on top but there are so many things we can learn from,” she stated. “I think from our defense we can work on our zone and if everything is done well, the zone will stop the other attackers. Our defense is such a crucial part of our team and we really take pride in that.”

The Crimson will travel down to North Carolina during its spring break trip next week. While there, the team will face off against both Duke (3-4) and High Point University (2-2). Both teams will be challenging opponents for Wills’ squad. The Blue Devils have already battled against ranked opponents, including No. 5 Syracuse, No. 15 Johns Hopkins, and No. 16 Navy. Duke only lost by one point against the competitive midshipmen, and will likely play a fierce game against Harvard.

Tune in at 6:00 pm EST on March 12 to watch the Harvard Crimson take on the Duke Blue Devils in Durham, North Carolina in Koskinen Stadium. The game will be streamed on ACCNX.

—Staff writer Isabel Smail can be reached at isabel.smail@thecrimson.com

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

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