The non-conference game is a double-edged sword: while a team can gain experience against a better (or worse) team with no effect on its league record, there is always a wild-card possibility that something bad can happen.
The Harvard women's soccer team's 1-1 tie with Providence was one of those wild-card games. The team played very well and a tie against the speedy Friars is nothing to sneeze at, but the Crimson took a couple of huge blows:
Freshman sweeper Cara James went down midway through the first half with damage to her right knee and is probably lost for the season.
Co-captain and fullback Meg Berte left the game late in the first half with bruised tendons and is questionable for Saturday's game against league-leading Dartmouth, according to Coach Tim Wheaton.
Fullback Genevieve Chelius--suffering from a bad case of the flu--also had to leave the game in the second half but is expected back this weekend.
With a shakeup like that, a 1-1 tie is almost impressive.
"Overall, considering the injuries, we played very well," Wheaton said. "It was hard to keep a focus, but we held things together."
Harvard held onto its .500 record--now at 5-5-2 (3-2-0 Ivy).
James' injury appears to be the most severe. The Wigglesworth resident, just named the Ivy League Player of the Week (see story below), said she collided with a Providence player while running back on defense and tripped.
James said that both the anterior and lateral cruciate ligaments in her right knee were damaged, and that magnetic resonance imaging tests were being scheduled this week.
"It looks pretty serious," Wheaton said. "As soon as she went down, the ref blew the whistle and said `Tim, hurry up.' He knew right away there was a problem. Refs don't do that often."
"It's bad," James said.
Berte's injury was "serious, but not season-ending," Wheaton said. "She's kind of touch-and-go."
To compensate for the losses, Wheaton shuffled his lineup: moving sophomore Sara Noonan back to sweeper and putting freshmen Ellen Mormino and Meg Kassakian on defense.
Sophomore Katie DeLellis moved from attack to the midfield, while sophomore Reena Lawande went in on the attack.
"When you have people getting hurt like that, a lot of adjustments to be made," freshman Rachel Chernikoff said. "It was unexpected, and we had to put it in the back of our minds."
Providence took advantage of the defensive confusion about 15 minutes into the second half, when an unmarked player took a pass at the top of the penalty box and rifled a shot past Harvard goalie Brooke Donahoe.
"There were a couple of people floating around in the box, and one of them got the ball," Donahoe said. "The shot was straight on. I got a hand on it, but couldn't stop it completely."
About 10 minutes later, the Crimson equalized the score when Lawande took a shot of her own from the top of the Frairs' penalty box. The ball deflected off a Providence defender and right to junior Sarah Simmons, who unleashed a shot through a defender's legs and past Friar goalie Jennifer Meade.
"I think the defender screened off the goalie," Simmons said.
Harvard generated some pressure in the overtime, but couldn't score on Meade, who also plays for the national team, Wheaton said.
"She's really a great goalie," Wheaton said. "She routinely kicked the ball over the midfield line."
"She's a moose," Donahoe said. "A moose."
Big Green Game
Harvard travels to Hanover, N.H., this Saturday for a game with league-leading Dartmouth (5-0-0) and its star goalie Michelle Conroy.
While the Crimson has had trouble scoring goals this season, the tally rate has increased recently and Harvard has never lost when it has scored a goal.
The only challenge will be scoring one--Dartmouth has yet to allow a goal in five games of Ivy play.
"It would be really, really nice to ruin their perfect season, Donahoe said. "I sure as hell hope we can."