Fresh Feet on the Field
First-years drive the Crimson’s success during the women’s lacrosse season opener
By LIZZIE GUMMER
All facets of this Sunday afternoon came together in perfect harmony this weekend for the Harvard Women’s Lacrosse team to excel in their opening game against Niagara. Warmer weather than the week prior paired with a long weekend holiday made for the ideal conditions for Harvard to take on the first official play day of the 2020 season.
A moderate but enthusiastic crowd of parents, friends, and fans alike came across the river to Jordan Field to catch the fresh team in action. Their trek was not in vain, as the team did not once allow their score to dip below that of their opponent. Harvard only allowed one goal from the Niagara team over the entire first half of the game, as compared to Harvard’s eight.
Out of the gates hot, Maddie Barkate ‘23 scored her first career goal within the first two minutes of the game. Following Barkate’s opening goal was Madison Conklin ‘21 with an unassisted goal just seven minutes into the game. Still unchallenged by their competition at the time of the third goal, Grace Hulslander ‘22 scored her first of four goals in the game with an assist from teammate Charlotte Clark ‘22.
Contributing again in the first half were Hulslander, Clark, Conklin, and Barkate to close the half with a score of 8-1 for Harvard. Also aiding the eight goal domination was Tessa Queri ‘21 in the 26th minute with a free position shot. Continuing to dominate through the second half, Hulslander and Queri went on to score four goals a piece. Also getting a piece of the action was Hannah Keating ‘20 and Stephanie Hong ‘23 with a goal each to round out the game.
Goaltenders Grace Rotondo ‘21 and Hannah Valencia ‘22 each spent some time defending the Crimson’s side of the field. Rotondo came away with three saves during her time on the field while Valencia blocked one.
The game against Niagara was the first time Harvard has taken on the team in recent history, resulting in a 15-3 win against the university. Harvard has historically excelled in their opening game, the past three years crushing the University of New Hampshire by a margin of at least seven goals each season.
For the upperclassmen on the team, the game was a jump back into the college lacrosse circuit that they have experienced for their past years at Harvard. Though exciting, nerve-wracking, and challenging for all, it is the first-year class who took great new steps this Sunday. Nine fresh legs took to the field for their first ever in-season collegiate game.
Among the nine were newcomers Sierra Agarwal ‘23 and Maddie Barkate ‘23, hailing from Maryland and California respectively. Representing Harvard for the first time at a collegiate athletic level, the two women were eager to put forward their best efforts for the opening game.
Agarwal recounts her experience of preparing for her first game as a “rush of excitement” building up inside of her “from the moment [she] put her jersey on,” experiencing an “amazing thrill.” An all-around athlete in high school, Agarwal decided to focus on lacrosse during her time at Harvard, noting that it is “a dream come true to be out there with other college players playing the game [she loves].”
While the basics of the game remain the same, Agarwal was cognizant of the differences between her high school experience and the beginning of her collegiate career. She explains how the games differed, such that “college games are so much faster” than she has experienced in high school, and the “game is becoming more and more about speed and being able to endure a high amount of competitiveness throughout.” Agarwal is enthusiastic about “the direction the women’s game is taking” and “can’t wait to see how the game keeps evolving” over the course of her career.
Looking forward to the coming games, Agarwal has “high expectations for this season.” She emphasizes the “hard work, effort, and grit” the team has put in so far “in order to meet those expectations.”
Fellow teammate Maddie Barkate had an outstanding first game. Barkate scored two goals in the first half, even taking the opening goal. In high school, Barkate too was a multi-sport athlete. Despite playing the sport for six years prior to Harvard, Maddie was “extremely nervous” in her first college game she “didn’t know exactly what to expect” from the new arena. Noting both the increased pace and aggression of the collegiate level, Barkate reflects that “college lacrosse is the most fun [she has] ever had playing” due to the “higher level of speed and intensity that comes with it.”
Despite prior nervous energy coming into the game, once play began Barkate felt “calm and ready.” Coming together for the first time in competition after months of hard work in the off- and pre-season, “it was so nice to finally get out there” and compete. Barkate feels that the team “executed the game plan” and despite having “things [they] can always improve on,” the team was “happy with [their] first showing.”
Both Agarwal and Barkate are anticipating a challenging week ahead as the team travels to Colorado this coming weekend. Both women spoke to the high expectations the team has for themselves this season, and this weekend will be a testament to the work they have put in thus far. Barkate hopes to “come away with two more wins” and is amped to “work hard to achieve those goals.” Agarwal echoes these sentiments while also eager to have a “great team bonding experience” in their first away games.
The Harvard Women’s Lacrosse team will play Colorado and Denver this coming weekend on Friday and Sunday, respectively. If for some reason you can’t make it out to the West Coast to catch these intense matches, consider joining the team at home again this Saturday, February 29th for their next home game on Jordan Field against fellow Ivy League competitor Cornell.
Elizabeth Gummer ‘21 (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes Sports for the Indy.