The Harvard women's soccer team's 4-2 loss to UConn yesterday afternoon was not the scenario the booters had planned.
The Crimson, riding high on its perfect 8-0 season record, which included impressive wins over regional powers Brown and Boston College, was psyched to upset or just outright beat the Huskies, ranked third in the nation.
And for the first 15 minutes of the contest, the booters executed as they had against lesser squads all season and seemed destined to travel the familiar path to victory.
Harvard came out charging and capitalized on its speed and aggressiveness only ten minutes into the contest. With the backline effectively popping the ball into the UConn end, it wasn't long before Cat Ferrante led striker sensation Kelly Landry, who streaked on goal and rifled a low drive into the twines.
Just like usual, the Crimson led. The booters had tallied the all-important first goal. But the difference between this encounter and previous ones was the opposition--nationally ranked Connecticut.
Unflustered, the Huskies, using crisp and timely passes, began their almost methodical march toward the goal. In what first-year coach and former UConn fullback Len Tsantiris termed a "fluid formation," the visitors advanced up field with creative give-and-goes and solid dribbling.
Apart from scoring machine Moira Buckley and lithe center forward Jane Spink, the Huskies weren't that fast or flashy. But every UConn player exhibited the skills, composure and toughness that made her a threat with or without the ball, defensively as well as offensively.
As the game progressed, the Huskies tightened their control of midfield, taking the extra second to find the open teammate rather than sending the ball aimlessly upfield and shadowing their counterparts so as to deny Harvard any moments of uncontested ball control.
"We had to mark much tighter," Harvard head coach Bob Scalise said after the game. "We marked spaces, not people, and they beat us in the gaps. You can't give a team like UConn that much time."
Yet teams like UConn are tops in the nation because they actively recruit national-calibre players and maintain their programs all year long. UConn prides itself on its soccer prowess (men's as well as women's) and spends the necessary cash to give eleven women's scholarships a year, the maximum allowed by the AIAW.
"Let's keep things in perspective. UConn plays soccer all the time--winter, spring, summer, and fall. That's not Harvard's priority," Scalise said, adding, "We want to do well, but we don't want to be undefeated by not playing against teams like UConn."
Not surprisingly, the Huskies snapped the Crimson's 12-game winning streak last season with a hard-fought 2-1 victory at Storrs. Yesterday's loss cuts Harvard's skein of triumphs at ten, counting the two wins from last year.