In a dramatic clash of two Ivy League titans, No. 4 Princeton field hockey (11–4 overall, 4–1 Ivy League) fell 3–1 to No. 9 Harvard (13–1, 5–0) on Saturday afternoon in a matchup that decided the 2018 Ivy League field hockey champion.
Princeton steeled itself from the beginning for a tough game. Junior goalkeeper Grace Baylis said the Tigers recognized the intensity of the upcoming game, but went into it prepared.
“We were just going to go out there and play the hockey we had played all season,” Baylis said. “We didn’t think we needed to make massive changes. We had a competitive mindset, but didn’t want to put a load of pressure on ourselves.”
But from the coin toss, the Tigers fell behind. “Harvard just came out with so much energy,” first-year midfielder Claire Donovan said. “They were being a lot stronger and more physical than we were, and the referees weren’t calling much of it. We weren’t used to that at all. They were all over us, and we just kind of panicked.”
Largely due to that panic, Harvard gained the advantage over Princeton. The Crimson gained the upper hand using one of the Tigers’ traditionally strongest tactics: penalty corners.
The Tigers currently lead the Ivy League and are ranked fourth nationally in penalty corners per game at 8.21. But on Saturday, the team capitalized on none of its six penalty corners. By contrast, each of Harvard’s three goals in the sixth, 20th, and 45th minute came from a penalty corner. And though Princeton ended the game with eight shots on goal to Harvard’s six, first-year midfielder Hannah Davey explained that the team “didn’t utilize our circle entries. We did not get many shots given how many entries we got, and we didn’t utilize our possessions or get rebounds like we should have.”
Baylis agreed. “We had more circle entries, more corners, and more shots than Harvard did, but didn’t manage to score. It really came down to the fine details, and we fell short there,” she said.
Senior striker Sophia Tornetta scored Princeton’s lone goal at 66:03, with under 10 minutes left in the game. In the wake of last week’s game against Brown University (6–8, 1–4), which ended with a dominating 8–0 win for the Tigers, Tornetta was named an All-Ivy player for the third time. Tornetta’s dramatic aerial goal hit the upper-right-hand corner. But a comeback victory for the Tigers proved elusive.
Despite the disappointment of having lost out on an Ivy League title, Princeton field hockey remains focused. “We’re pretty fired up,” Donovan said. “It’s definitely a motivator for us. We always come out of losses completely as a team. No one internalizes anything. We definitely should have won the game, but they outplayed us. We have to move on with our season.”
Princeton has two games left in its season. It will face Cornell University (3–11, 0–5) away on Oct. 27, and Penn (8–7, 4–1) at home on Nov. 3. After that, the team moves on to the NCAA National Championship, which has remained the focus of the past three months.
“At the end of the day, we have bigger goals than an Ivy League championship. This game made us even hungrier than before,” Baylis said.
Donovan agreed. “We’re putting this behind us,” she said. “Now we have to win a national championship.”