The Harvard women's soccer team opened its season with a strong 2-0-1 start.
The team featured a talented attack coupled with a strong defense and had designs on the Ivy title.
But things haven't gone its way since then.
Neither the offense nor the defense distinguished itself in the team's losses to Brown and Boston College.
In its last two games, the Crimson has allowed six goals while scoring only one.
Today, Harvard (2-2-1, 1-1-0 Ivy) needs to pull itself together when it meets Pennsylvania at 11:00 on Ohiri Field.
Piece of Cake
Barring a complete and total collapse by the Crimson, racking up a win should not be a problem.
This is the first year that Penn has had a varsity women's soccer program. Any Ivy victories for the Quakers will be considered major upsets, except perhaps over Columbia.
Picking up a win is critical for the Crimson because the rest of the schedule is packed with tough matches. Upcoming contests include games against Yale, Ivy League leader Cornell and Connecticut, which is presently ranked second in the nation.
The hustle and defensive intensity that marked the first three games hasn't been there in the Crimson's recent losses to Brown and Boston College.
"Individually, we've played well," junior Sharon Olken said. "But as a team, we haven't played together."
Pulling it all together is especially important for a team that prides itself on a controlled offense. The unassisted goal is a rarity for this team.
Too often, the Crimson offense creates assist opportunities without finishing them.
Week in and week out, Coach Tim Wheaton has his team practicing those finishes. But the result has yet to be seen on the scoreboard.
Wheaton's refrain, "I want to score more goals than the other team," is becoming a legitimate desire instead of a throwaway punch line.
The offense's troubles mean that the Crimson "D" must play at midfield, pressuring the opposing defense.
This role is uncomfortable for the defense. Sweeper Erin Matias is at her best stripping the ball from opposing forwards in front of the goal, not quarterbacking the offense from midfield.
Naturally, when the defense is playing at midfield, breakaway drives become more difficult to stop.
Crimson goalie Brooke Donahoe is the victim of the resulting defensive breakdowns.
Four times in the last two games, speedy opponents have taken a long pass, outrun the Crimson defense down the field, and scored on a lonely Donahoe.
These breakaway goals unfortunately overshadow her generally brilliant goalkeeping. On most other goalies, B.C. would have scored four or five times. Donahoe, however, kept the Crimson close.
But she can't stop them all.
That's why Penn is such an important game.
Today is the last chance Harvard will have to fine tune their game, unmolested.
If the Crimson puts on a display of crisp passing, sharp shooting, and strong defense, it could bode well for a successful year. The Ivy title is not out of reach.
For the Crimson today, it is not only a question of winning, but also of how it wins.