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No. 9 Field Hockey Faces No. 3 Princeton with Championship Consequences

{image id=1333232 size=full align=center caption=true} Both coming off of commanding 8-0 victories over Cornell and Brown, respectively, Ivy powerhouses No. 9 Harvard and No. 3 Princeton will meet up once again at the Tiger’s Bedford Field for the de facto Ivy League championship game.

“This game is a top 10 matchup which is always great to have,” said head coach Tjerk van Herwaarden. “I think the Harvard-Princeton game over the last couple of years has really set itself apart by being the game that decides the Ivy League championship. I still consider us the underdogs in how we approach the game. The stage is set and there will be a lot of people out there and we know that.”

After earning its school-record ninth consecutive victory, the Crimson (12-1, 4-0 Ivy League) achieved its highest national ranking ever at No. 9 in the latest Penn Monto/NFHCA Division I National Coaches Poll. The team boasts both a strong offense and a steel-walled defense, currently standing at sixth in the nation in scoring offense at a 3.62 goals per game and an impressive second in goals against average at 0.77.

Juniors Bente van Vlijmen (10 goals, five assists) and Maddie Earle (12 goals, two assists) spearhead Harvard’s offense, with Earle leading the Ivy League in scoring with 26 points — on pace to threaten the single season program scoring record of 42 points held by Judy Collins '99 and Shelley Maasdorp '05.

Meanwhile, the Tigers (11-3, 4-0) boast a resume of similar caliber, with its defense at 1.12 goals against average and its offense at 3.5 goals per game. Coming into Saturday’s match, Princeton is 40-6-2 all time against the Crimson, winning 23 of the last 24 meetings with Harvard’s only win in 2016. Despite the unfavorable historical standing, coach van Herwaarden remained highly optimistic of his team’s odds this season.

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“We’ve been consistent for the past three to four years, and we’ve been able to turn the program around and set ourselves up to win the Ivy League championship on a yearly basis,” van Herwaarden stated.

Hoping to continue with its success, the team seeks to capitalize on its superb defense that has produced seven shutout victories so far. The Crimson’s back line will be threatened by sophomore Julianna Tornetta, who scored 3 goals against the Bears. Other weapons for the Tigers include freshman Hannah Davey who ranks 20th in the nation in assists per contest and sophomore MaryKate Neff who leads the league in defensive saves.

With four more games in the regular season, three of which are crucial Ancient Eight matchups, there’s still much to do for the field hockey team especially as they fight their way to the championship.

“I think we’re in a great boat,” van Herwaarden said. “There’s been a growth that’s been much seen on a week to week basis. Although our record, with nine straight wins is fantastic and our rank, at number nine, is fantastic, we haven’t seen our best effort yet. Our team knows it. There’s still a whole new level to us so it’s exciting just to keep growing and keep that mindset. We are putting ourselves in the best position possible to win the Ivy League championship.”

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