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Women’s Lacrosse Drops Contest Against No. 15 UPenn 18-8 on Sunday

Senior attacker Callie Hem controls the ball in a win earlier this week against Brown.
Senior attacker Callie Hem controls the ball in a win earlier this week against Brown. By Courtesy of Harvard Athletics

The No. 21 Harvard women's lacrosse team (5-2, 1-1 Ivy) fell to No. 15 UPenn (7-1, 2-0 Ivy) on Ace Adams Field in Philadelphia on Sunday. The Crimson’s defeat marks its second loss of the season and its first in competitive Ivy League play.

The game started with a tight exchange of goals, with the score swiftly tied up at 2-2. However, in the last six minutes of the first quarter, Penn began to take the lead. The Quakers’ explosive offense quickly propelled its team up to a score of 5-2 heading into the first break. As the game progressed into the second quarter, UPenn’s offensive momentum continued. The Quakers managed to score the opening two goals of the second quarter, extending their lead to 7-2. The Harvard team, determined to close the gap, responded with two quick goals from senior attacker Maddie Barkate and senior captain Riley Campbell. UPenn answered the Crimson by adding three more points to the scoreboard.

Harvard ended the first half of play down 10-4. After the halftime pause, the team maintained better possession, holding the Quakers to only two goals in the third quarter. Despite its improvement, Harvard still entered the fourth quarter at a six-point deficit, with a score of 12-6. The Crimson was unable to mount a successful comeback, as UPenn scored six goals within the last 15 minutes to secure its second in-league win.

Throughout the game, Harvard struggled to score against UPenn’s skilled defensive unit. The Quakers managed to keep the Crimson to just two goals in each quarter of play. In comparison, UPenn’s offense had significant success, as four different Quakers recorded hat tricks during the 60 minutes of play. Notably, junior Anna Brant scored an impressive five goals on her first five shots of the game. Additionally, UPenn’s Niki Miles, a senior from California, earned the title of Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week for her three goals and two assists during the contest.

Carole Kleinfelder Head Coach Devon Wills said that despite the team’s preparation, the offensive line struggled against the strong opposing defense.

“They did a really good job,” she said of the rival squad. “Their game plan was spot on and it rattled us. It took us a minute to get our footing back and to handle their pressure. We knew they were going to have a really solid and really athletic defense so we tried to work on that, but I think the pressure level took us off guard a little.”

The Quakers dominated in the midfield, particularly the draw controls, greatly aiding its success. UPenn won an impressive 20 draws, compared to Harvard’s nine. In the fourth quarter specifically, Harvard dropped all nine draws to the UPenn squad. The Quaker’s control of the draw allowed the team to have significantly more offensive possession than the Crimson. During the contest, UPenn battered the Crimson’s senior goaltender, Chloe Provenzano, with 30 shots on goal, while Harvard only had 14. The Crimson also struggled with turnovers, as the team gave up the ball 22 times during the game. This game marked Harvard’s highest turnover rate of the entire season.

Coach Wills underscored these challenges but emphasized that the team views the game as a learning opportunity.

“We put a lot of time into focusing on some minor changes to our defense,” added Wills. “We definitely did get quite a few stops and it was pretty even in terms of ball possession, but then in the fourth quarter we really struggled to get the ball off the draw. Moving forward the game gave us a lot to learn from and work on to continue to get better. All the things are really fixable which is positive so hopefully we get another chance to go at them.”

So far, UPenn has been the highest-ranked opponent that the Crimson has faced this year. Prior to beating Harvard, the Quakers had defeated No. 10 Johns Hopkins and lost by only one goal to the No. 2 Michigan Wolverines, who remain undefeated.

Despite the loss, the Crimson is motivated to improve and eager to bounce back.

“After the game they were pretty frustrated and wished they had that back,” said Coach Wills. “I don't think it was a matter of skill, it was just a matter of execution and fight, from one end to the other. The last couple days of practice they have been playing hard and they are focused on getting better and using it as a learning tool. The leadership of our team has been doing a great job of really showing that its in adversity that you find your character and that we can bounce back from this and be stronger.”

Harvard looks to prove itself on Saturday in another Ivy League matchup against Dartmouth, Carole Kleinfelder Coach Wills’s alma matter. Although unranked nationally, the Big Green has recorded wins against impressive opponents, including No. 21 USC.

Tune in to either ESPN+ or NESN to watch the Crimson take on Dartmouth at 4:00 pm EST on Jordan Field in Cambridge. The team will then continue its home stretch against Merrimack on Tuesday at 5:00 pm.

—Staff writer Laura Connor can be reached at

—Staff writer Isabel Smail can be reached at

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