March 7, 2011

Strong Second Half Push Lifts Harvard to Win Over Women’s Lacrosse Team

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The women’s lacrosse team (1-2, 0-1 Ivy League) suffered a tough loss at the hands of conference rival Harvard (1-1, 1-0) on Saturday afternoon at Schoellkopf Field.

The Red was fierce on the attack during the first period — maintaining possession of the ball for long periods of time. Though Harvard set the initial tone of the game with a goal 44-seconds into play, junior midfielder Shannon McHugh quickly responded by notching a pair of goals in a two-minute scoring burst. The Crimson soon overthrew the Red’s early lead by scoring a series of three goals, including a free position goal by attacker Jennifer VanderMeulen — the first of three goals that she had in the matchup.

Following an unassisted goal by Cornell sophomore attacker Caro­line Salisbury, Harvard regained possession of the ball and rushed towards the Red’s defensive zone. Crimson player Jenn Leffew with an assist by Danielle Tetreault scored on the Red. However, Cornell refocused and was able to tie the game up at six points apiece with goals by Salisbury and senior tri-captain and attacker Jessi Steinberg. The Red finished the first period on a high note leading the Crimson after a free position shot by McHugh.

“[Going into the second period], ideally we wanted to take the lead and run with it,” Steinberg said. “We came out really energized and ready to play.”

During the second period even though Cornell was up one goal, the momentum began to shift — beginning with an unassisted goal by Crimson midfielder Melanie Baskind. This shot tied the game up again; however the Red’s luck began to decrease by this point — VanderMeulen scored a pair of goals and attacker Jess Halpern found a spot in the net as well, increasing Harvard’s lead to 10-7. The Red was permitted only a few opportunities to shoot on Harvard at the beginning of the second period — much of the game was played in Cornell’s defensive zone.

Two more goals from the Crimson created a greater deficit for the Red — quickly transforming the contest into a constant game of catch-up for Cornell. Harvard’s hold on the ball finally ended when junior attacker Olivia Knotts put the Red back on the scoreboard with 8:30 left in the game.

“Olivia Knotts had three assists and a goal, which was a really nice effort,” said head coach Jenny Graap ’86.

Though the Crimson was able to answer with a goal just a minute later, the Red shut Harvard out for the remainder of the game — gaining momentum with only six minutes remaining in the period when senior tri-captain and midfielder Libby Johnson scored a goal.

“We definitely improved our transition from defense to offense,” Johnson said. “We were able to mount a comeback in the second half and we … showed that we could come together at the end.”

The Red claimed the final three goals of the game — Steinberg scoring the last point of the day with only 27-seconds left in regulation play. Unfortunately, Cornell was unable to completely overtake the Crimson — ending the game down by one.

Though the Crimson played a strong game, Graap believes that the Red was able to fight back after adjusting its playing style.

“Harvard is scrappy and aggressive, and I think that they played a good game,” Graap said. “Their defense definitely had some weaknesses, which we were eventually able to exploit, but it took us a while to adjust. Their defense style was a little different from what we had seen in our first games. I was pleased with the resiliency of the squad to stay strong there at the end of the game.”

Johnson also suggests that Harvard presented a challenge for the Red — this loss was definitely a tough learning experience.

“[Harvard] is a very young team — they only have one senior,” Johnson said. “But they played a very fast-paced game with a really interesting defense that we hadn’t seen before. They came out in the second half with a lot of intensity. We’re really looking to put together a full game, and we’re also looking to [be competitive] in the Ivy League, so it’s tough to have this first loss.”

Though the loss was not the desired outcome of the game against Harvard, the Red is continually making progress.

“It was really impressive and nice to see that at the end — even with the short amount of time left — we could put a lot of goals in and that we could pull through,” Steinberg said. “That’s something that we haven’t really done before.”

“We are aware that we still have quite a bit of work [to do] and we’re still looking to improve every day,” Graap reaffirmed. “Everyone is ready to learn, not just from Harvard, but from [all of] our first three games.”

On Friday, the Red will travel to Baltimore, Md., to face Loyola at 1 p.m. at Ridley Athletic Complex.

Original Author: Alane Trafford