Happy birthday, Skyler Vinton.
The Harvard women's soccer team celebrated the senior midfielder's 21st birthday with a 2-1 victory over Princeton yesterday.
But the Tigers brought the nicest gift.
With 10 minutes left in a 1-1 game, Princeton defender Lisa Tanners tripped over the ball while trying to clear it from the goal area.
Co-Captain Robin Johnston alertly nabbed the ball and passed to forward Jen Minkus, who sliced a shot past the goalie for the winning score.
The drama of the goal overshadowed an otherwise subpar performance from the Crimson.
"They took us off our game," Harvard Coach Tim Wheaton said. "Skillwise, we were better, though, and that enabled us to do something."
"Something" turned out to be just barely enough to squeeze by the physical Tigers.
The win raised the Crimson's record to 7-4-1 (4-2-0 Ivy), while Princeton is now 3-9-0 (2-4-0 Ivy).
But for the third game in a row, the Crimson played without the fire that carried them to their earlier upset win over Massachusetts.
While Wheaton's game plan called for his team to take Princeton out of the game early, Harvard's lacsadaisical play let the inferior Tigers nearly pull off an upset.
Princeton showed on Sunday that heart can match skill.
"We weren't winning the loose balls we normally win," midfielder Sharon Olken said. "We have to win those 50-50 chances."
Princeton was helped by the referee, who called eight fouls against the Crimson but only one against the Tigers in the first 15 minutes, despite the rough play on both sides.
The incessant free kicks forced Harvard on the defensive, and gave Princeton the confidence it needed to play with the Crimson for the rest of the game.
"Princeton is a good, solid team," Wheaton said. "In Ivy League games, things like this do happen."
But Wheaton certainly wasn't thrilled with his team's play, which should not have allowed Princeton the success that it had.
An encouraging moment occurred at the opening of the second half, when Vinton converted a corner kick by Johnston to put Harvard up, 1-0.
It seemed as if Wheaton had lit a fire under his players at halftime, and Harvard would soon have the game well in hand.
Princeton was not fazed, though, and Harvard was unable to press its advantage. In fact, Princeton came back to tie the score on a breakaway by Tigers junior Danielle Ryan.
Even that failed to galvanize the Crimson. Princeton continued to take quality shots on goal and the game appeared headed for certain overtime.
Then came the gift, and the game was over.
"We stuck with it, and that got us through," Vinton said.
The Crimson, though, should not have had to "stick with it."
They should have been able to stick it to the Tigers.