Teams (2013 overall, conference record):
Harvard (12-4-2, 7-0)
Harvard started last season 0-3-1 before finishing on a 12-1-1 run that dead-ended in the first round of the NCAA tournament. That included a perfect sprint through the Ivy League that capped a program-best 14-game unbeaten streak. Last season was the first time in 15 years Harvard went unbeaten in conference, and the Crimson should enjoy another season from the front with the talent they return. It starts with forward Margaret Purce, the conference’s best player who enters her sophomore season after going for 11 goals and four assists last year. The unexpected loss of top recruit Caroline Chagares to injury will hurt, but many of Harvard’s key contributors from last year (Marie Margoulis, Meg Casscells-Hamby, Karly Zlatic) return. The Crimson will once again be the hunted. It's league title or bust.
Penn (12-1-4, 5-1-1)
Nobody came closer to bumping off Harvard last year than Penn, which held a lead on the Crimson as late as the 75th minute before Harvard roared back for a 2-1 win. Penn finished second in the league with its best defense, as nobody gave up fewer than their five goals. Unfortunately for Penn, the attack wasn’t similarly dominant - they scored only nine goals in seven Ivy League games, and all but one of their five conference wins were 1-0 results. Caroline Dwyer’s return will hearten Penn supporters, who watched the Hermann Award watch lister bloom into one of the nation’s best defenders in 2013. The return of defender Haley Cooper and keeper Kalijah Terilli will assure the defense stays salty, but they’ll need more out of their attack to supplant Harvard, the only loss on their 2013 ledger.
Brown (10-6-1, 4-2-1)
The Bears enjoyed success last year behind a supremely experienced side, but what happens this year is up for some debate. Three of the team’s top four scorers graduated, including stalwart defender Alison Mullin. The good news is that leading scorer Chloe Cross, who had seven goals and five assists a year ago, returns to anchor the front line for her senior season. There will be a new keeper between the pipes - both Mc Barrett and Amber Bledsoe are gone - and much will be expected of key returning defenders like Annie Gillen and Sarah Moody as the attack is refreshed.
Dartmouth (8-6-3, 4-3)
Dartmouth scored more goals in the league last year than anyone aside from Harvard, and finishing the season on a 3-1 run was as good way to head into the offseason. The Big Green bring back 15 players from that team, led by returning leading scorer Corey Delaney and her five tallies from last year to go with her five assists. Dartmouth scored 12 goals in its final four games in 2013, and though the loss of team co-MVP Emma Brush puts a dent in the offense, there’s enough returning to leave the Big Green expecting another season above .500 in the league.
Yale (7-8-1, 2-4-1)
The Bulldogs had strung together back-to-back wins in October before the thing fell apart and they lost each of their last three. They weren’t aided by the loss of Frannie Coxe, who led the league in assists before missing the last part of the season with an injury. Her return for her senior year boosts a team that also brings back stalwarts Melissa Gavin and Meredith Speck for their senior seasons. Each of the team’s top five points-getters from last year returns, meaning Yale is easy money to improve on its two Ivy League wins from last season.
Columbia (8-6-3, 1-4-2)
Columbia couldn’t catch a break in the league last year until it legged out a 3-1 win over Yale on the final week of the regular season. Despite an eight-win season, that triggered the arrival of new coach Tracey Bartholomew, who was most recently at LIU Brooklyn. How that changes the team’s style remains to be seen, but her most immediate concern is replacing Beverly Leon’s 24 points and Natalie Melo’s seven assists from 2013. Combined with the loss of Elly McGuffrog, Columbia lost 55 percent of its scoring and 64 percent of its assists from three players. Under new management and with new key contributors, this might be a rebuilding year for the Lions.
Princeton (7-6-4, 1-5-1)
The Tigers finished on a high note last season by beating Colgate and Cornell before putting two past Penn - one of the best defenses in the nation - in a 3-2 loss to finish the season. The good news is that the core of that attack returns in the fearsome duo of Tyler Lussi and Lauren Lazo. The Killer L’s combined for 15 goals and 11 assists last year, and their partnership is one of the league’s best. The Tigers have to find a way to be better at the back, and five upperclassmen defenders on the roster should calm things down in 2014. As with most of the league's sub-.500 teams from last year, there's enough here to improve the record in 2014.
Cornell (7-8-1, 1-6)
Cornell’s brutal 0-5 end to 2013 is history - it included a 7-2 loss to Harvard - so the team turns the page to a fresh season. The top three points accumulators from 2013 are back for another go, including Caroline Growney and her seven goals from last season. Dempsey Banks and Elizabeth Crowell were also important, but the team needs to find balance in 2014. It was last in both goals and goals allowed in the league last year, and a young roster will have to grow up fast. Sixty four percent of the team are underclassmen.