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A Turning Point: Harvard Women's Lacrosse Wins Three of Last Four Match-Ups, Hitting Midseason Stride

In 2020, the Harvard women's lacrosse team faces the Big Red in a close 9-8 loss at home. While the Crimson has an off-weekend this weekend, Harvard will pick up Ivy play against next Saturday, April 1 at Dartmouth.
In 2020, the Harvard women's lacrosse team faces the Big Red in a close 9-8 loss at home. While the Crimson has an off-weekend this weekend, Harvard will pick up Ivy play against next Saturday, April 1 at Dartmouth. By Brendan J. Chapuis
By Hannah Bebar, Crimson Staff Writer

After a difficult start to the season, the Crimson has hit pace with three wins in its past four games. A strong starter to spring break, the Crimson traveled to Worcester, Mass. to play Holy Cross and notched its first win on the season with a 15-12 scoreline. Familiar standouts, the junior pair of attackers Riley Campbell and Callie Hem, led the attacking domination with four goals each on the day. The Crimson did not stop there, with flying attacking threats from first-year stars Hannah Shiels and Kate Gilliam.

Harvard traveled south with this momentum to play Coastal Carolina for a Tuesday matchup. Despite being on away turf, the Crimson led the charge from the start with senior standout Shea Jenkins notching a first-career goal on a spectacular run dicing through CCU opponents to rocket a shot just 12 seconds into the game. The Crimson’s strong play continued throughout the 60 minutes, edging past CCU in shots, saves, and draw controls.

Harvard has been extremely powerful off the draw despite the loss of senior Grace Hulslander due to injury. Junior midfielder Maddie Barkate has seamlessly stepped up and dominated on the draw, especially in the team’s most recent win against Holy Cross. Barkate reached a career-high of 12 draw controls as well as two goals, demonstrating her versatility and adaptability for the Crimson this season.

The Crimson have shown this resilience and response to adversity as a team, and that is something Coach Wills has emphasized from the start.

“I was really proud of how the team battled both in Holy Cross and in Coastal. We didn’t play a perfect game by any means. However, we found a way to regain momentum when the other teams went on a run,” Wills noted.

Sophomore midfielder Charley Meier emphasized how important it has been for the team to control momentum and not let the heat of the game affect large swings in possession against the Crimson.

“One of the biggest things in lacrosse is that it is a game of runs. It comes down to who can capitalize on runs — who can score the most off of them or who can prevent the other team from going on those huge runs,” Meier commented. “We have been trying to work on managing a lot when we get down by one or two goals, not shifting our morale or spiraling.”

The Crimson managed just that — maintaining scores on the board and managing energy throughout the respective games against CCU and Holy Cross.

“Several players stepped up at the right time. In Holy Cross, we had some critical goals at the right time from Ilana Kofman and in Coastal from Caroline Mullahy. Charlotte Hodgeson had a big game at Coastal and Maddie Barkate has really been leading our draw team,” Coach Wills said. “Further, in Holy Cross, Chloe Provenzano went in and honestly was a momentum shifter for us in the cage.”

The success on the field comes from a strong desire to improve the details in practice, according to junior midfielder Ilana Kofman.

“We try to focus on ourselves with the film and the drills we do focusing on what we need to build as a team,” Kofman reflected. “Our coaches focus on our game and what we can improve which I really like and I think it helps us not focus on what the other team is doing but lead on the field.”

The Crimson has sharpened this mentality of putting the team first and focusing on its potential as opposed to the outside noise — a task that most teams do not realize until much later in the season towards post-season play. Meier spoke to the quality of technical improvement in addition to this mentality that has helped the team going forward.

“We are trying to work on our zone and be like a forcefield where we are a huge unit working together. We have been doing a lot of 1v1s and zone work to be able to hold the dodges a lot stronger,” the midfielder said.

The work on the field, coupled with a fresh mentality going into the season post-break, is essential for Coach Will’s team with a string of important Ivy games looming in the near future. The Crimson looks to come back from two Ivy league losses, most recently last Saturday to Penn at home, and flip their fortune in the league away at Dartmouth on April 1. With defending champions Princeton coming off an Ivy League loss to Yale, no team is guaranteed a title, and competition is heating up in the Northeast.

The Crimson sealed off its third win emphatically last night against Merrimack, 20-2, with Hem tacking on five more goals to her already-20 on the season, making her total of 25 goals a team-high. Big contributions by Campbell, first-year Charlotte Hodgson, and sophomore midfielder Caroline Mullahy added greatly to the win and confidence heading into Dartmouth next weekend. The Crimson are firing on all cylinders, and hope to take that momentum to make an impact in Ivy League play.

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

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