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No. 9 Field Hockey Dominates No. 3 Princeton in Program-Defining Win

Bente van Vlijmen, Casey Allen, and Tessel Huibregtsen were the Crimson goal scorers in Saturday's 3-1 victory over Princeton.
Bente van Vlijmen, Casey Allen, and Tessel Huibregtsen were the Crimson goal scorers in Saturday's 3-1 victory over Princeton. By Timothy R. O'Meara
By Tahmid Ahmed, Contributing Writer

Saturday’s win against Princeton wasn’t just to make a statement. It wasn’t just to prove the doubters wrong. It wasn’t just to move the team a step closer to the Ivy League Championship. The win was about a devoted and determined family who played their hearts out and fought back multiple times, like all championship winning teams.

This past Saturday, field hockey dispatched of No. 3 Princeton (11-4, 4-1 Ivy) with a final score of 3-1. With the victory, the team is in prime position to capture the Ivy League crown.

“I am so incredibly proud of this team, this family,” senior captain Kathleen Young said. “We have all worked so hard for this moment and these are the moments we play for.”

Harvard (13-1, 5-0) started the game off with a hot start, as juniors Bente van Vlijmen and Casey Allen scored goals at 5:46 and 19:37, respectively.

“It was an unbelievable feeling,” said van Vlijmen of the first goal. “It felt unreal but we had to keep our heads in the game. We brought incredible energy going into the game and therefore we were able to score goals early in the first half. This allowed us to shock Princeton and put them on their heels.”

Van Vlijmen has now scored a total of 11 goals in the season and leads the Ivy League in scoring with 27 points (11 goals, five assists).

“A lot of girls are scoring and it’s awesome to see that our team has depth and we don’t just rely on individuals,” van Vlijmen said.

The Crimson extended its comfortable two-score lead at 44:45 with a goal courtesy of sophomore Tessel Huibregtsen. The midfielder was not just a goal scorer, but also a key facilitator as she contributed an assist. For the second straight game, Huibregtsen scored multiple points, and she now possesses a career high of 14 points (5 goals, four assists).

However, it was not just the offense that helped the team. The defense also made a significant impact. The team only conceded one goal during the contest at 66:03 and first-year goalkeeper Ellie Shahbo had four saves.

“I feel very honored to be a part of such a hard working team,” Shahbo said. “I mean, people were throwing their bodies on the line to make sure the ball stayed out of our goal and rolled into theirs — today’s game was a huge testament to the character of the girls on the team.”

When asked what kept her momentum going throughout the game, Shahbo attributed her tenacity to the team’s determination.

“At the end of the game there was literally blood, sweat and tears left on the field,” the goalie said. “Playing big games, like Princeton, is one of the reasons you play sports — to have a challenge to overcome, and the next best thing is getting to do it with people you love.”

Shahbo has now won seven straight starts, four of which were against Ivy foes, and has conceded just three goals during that period.

This marks the team’s first win against a top-five opponent during the Tjerk van Herwaarden era.

“It is fantastic to see this program take massive steps forward,” coach van Herwaarden said. “We know we can play with the best teams in this country.”

The team is now on a 10-game winning streak, the second longest in the nation, and has won 20 of its last 21 Ivy League meetings. Although the team displayed some weaknesses during the game, it played extremely well for the most part.

“Our game plan was executed very well,” van Herwaarden said. “Our attack and defensive unit stepped up and took care of business. There were moments where we could have kept more control — it was overall a high intensity game and we lost some control at some moments.”

Van Herwaarden attributes much of the Crimson’s success to the team’s focus on reaching its potential.

“That has been the focus from day one,” said the seven-year veteran head coach. “The records and streaks are an outcome of that process. The combination of a very strong defense, a forward line that can score goals, and a midfield that is able to go with speed is truly the reason for our current success.”

The team is set to face off against No. 11 Boston College next Thursday at Berylson Field.

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