There's No Time Like Tournament Time
This is it. The Harvard women's soccer team's journey, which began so long ago in the wilds of Maine with a 2-0 victory over Bowdoin, has taken its final turn. This evening in Providence, the team finds out whether the voyage ends now, or continues on down the Yellow Brick Road to Colorado, and the first-ever women's collegiate national soccer tournament.
The Crimson booters, seeded fifth in the regional tournament, will face fourth-seeded Brown tonight under the lights at 7 p.m. Providence time. Brown knocked the Crimson out of the Ivy League tournament this past weekend, 2-1, in the semis, although the Crimson defeated the Bruins, 2-1 in overtime, during the regular season.
While their loss to Brown and subsequent third-place finish in the Ivies (the first time in the tournament's three-year history Harvard hasn't won) put a temporary damper on Crimson spirits, none of it means anything in regard to the Easterns.
To sound just a little bit trite, tonight, and Saturday and Sunday's semifinals and finals at the University of Vermont, are for all the marbles. Or all the plane tickets west.
The winner of the Brown-Harvard match-up will venture to UVM to meet the winner of the game between number one seed Princeton (undefeated until it lost to Brown in the Ivy finals) and number eight Cortland State, which tied Harvard, 1-1, in the finals of last year's Easterns.
Going into tonight's game, the Crimson's record stands at 10-4, while Brown carries an 11-3 mark. The top Crimson scorers are Sue St. Louis, with ten goals and five assists, and Laurie Gregg, with nine and six. Brown is led by Ivy League tournament MVP Frances Fusco and outstanding sweeper back Yvonne Goldsberry. It'll be a nail-biter.
At the conclusion of the Ivy League finals, Harvard's St. Louis and Joan Elliott were named to the first team All-Ivy squad, and four Crimson players--Gregg, Kelly Gately, Jeannie Piersiak and Laura Mayer--received second team mention. For St. Louis, she earned her third straight All-Ivy selection, which makes her a full-fledged charter member. And Elliott was one of just two freshmen named to the number one squad.
However, the coaches around the league seem to have made some mistakes. Certainly Crimson midfielder and co-captain Gia Johnson deserved at least a second team berth. Outstanding in the midfield all season, she peaked at the tournament with exceptional play in all three games.
And what about leaving Crimson fullback Sue Rockwell off of at least the second team? She's one of the best defensive players you'll ever see. Just ask Fusco about Rockwell.
Perhaps both Johnson and Rockwell suffered because of their styles of play, composed and controlled, and their quiet manners. They don't stand out as much as St. Louis, Gregg or Fusco. But it's hard to believe that any coach would take Yale midfielder Liz Traver over Johnson, or the Dartmouth fullback who made first team ahead of Rockwell.
The selections of Gregg and Brown's Goldsberry for only second team honors is beyond comprehension. If I had to choose the player who most determined the outcome of the tournament, it would have to be Goldsberry. She saved Brown's win against Harvard and totally controlled the Princeton offense in the finals.
And no one had a better tournament than Laurie Gregg. With three goals and three assists in the three games, she sparked the Harvard machine, and once again, you need go no further than the Brown team to find out about just how valuable Gregg is. Two of the Bruins deliberately tried to knock her out of Saturday's game to "help" their team. Seriously.
Brown's flashy, fancy forward Frances Fusco won the MVP honors. She can scoot, but not much else. My offensive MVP was Laurie Gregg. And on defense, I'll take Goldsberry. Give them co-awards, but first, put them on the first team.
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Watching Brown's Darcy Fernald and Cheryl Stahl battle Gregg in tonight's game will be interesting. These two Bruins' unsportsmanlike actions in Saturday's game have definitely been the exception rather than the rule in this season's women's soccer action. Will it happen again?
Fernald should have been kicked out of the game, but unfortunately she times her cheap shots for when the refs look the other way. A real pro. Let's hope for good, clean--but still hard, tough--soccer tonight. The opening round of the Easterns shouldn't be any other way.
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In women's soccer tournament action, if the game goes into sudden death overtime, goalies are eliminated, or rather, the goalies lose use of their hands. Should that happen tonight--and with these two teams it is certainly a possibility--then Gregg will play goal for the Crimson.
If it sounds impossible for a goalie to be without her hands, you should have seen the defensive play that wing fullback Gately made for Harvard in the tournament game against Brown.
With the Crimson holding a 1-0 lead late in the first half, Harvard goalie Ann Diamond had to leave the net to meet an on-rushing Brown player. The Crimson keeper got to the ball first, but it squirted loose and onto the feet of another Bruin forward, who got off an excellent shot, hard and right on the open net. A sure goal.
Suddenly, from out of nowhere, came a diving Gately, heading the ball wide and over the endline. It was the defensive play of the tournament, and maybe the play of the year.