This past weekend, the Harvard women's soccer team showed that it prefers to play its games the same way it prefers to tally its goals--in bunches.
The Crimson (7-2, 2-1 Ivy) scored early and often in this weekend's Harvard Invitational Tournament at Ohiri Field, posting an easy 3-1 win over Ivy rival Cornell on Friday before routing Davidson 7-0 in the championship game on Sunday.
The tourney marked the end of a busy stretch for the Crimson, who has now won five games in a row in the span of just 10 days after starting the season by going 2-2 in games that came--on average--six days apart.
"I definitely think that this long stretch of games has raised our confidence and our level of play," said sophomore forward Joey Yenne. "We're definitely at the best point we've been at all season."
Harvard 7, Davidson 0
In Sunday's game against Davidson (10-4, 3-1 Southern), Harvard matched its highest offensive output of the season and, in the process, involved nine different players in the scoring.
After a competitive start to the first half, the Crimson broke through for the only goal it would need in the 25th minute. Freshman midfielder Katie Westfall took a pass from sophomore midfielder Amy Cooper just beyond the 18-yard line and kicked a screeching line drive into the lower right corner of the net.
The score gave Westfall her third goal in four games and earned Cooper her second point of the season.
Harvard added a second strike right before halftime, as sophomore forward Joey Yenne dribbled down to the right end line and then directed a centering pass back to freshman midfielder Caitlin Fisher. The rookie converted the opportunity, giving the Crimson a 2-0 advantage at the intermission.
From there, the Crimson blew the game wide open, rattling off five second-half goals. The onslaught picked apart the Davidson defense, which had survived the first half by preserving numbers in the defensive end and crowding around the ball.
But Harvard quickly succeeded in spreading the field, as the Crimson controlled play along the sidelines. Outside midfielders Fisher and sophomore Orly Ripmaster repeatedly beat the Wildcats to loose balls on the wing and set up the Crimson's players in the center of the field with booming crosses.
"We started to use our width a little bit," Wheaton said. "And I think we have some really strong players in the middle of the midfield. They just stepped it up and started winning individual battles. When [Davidson] started combining around people, it gave us some space."
That space created room for Yenne, one of the team's best ball handlers, to work her magic.
Yenne set up the Crimson's third goal by once again drawing the defense down to the end line and then dishing off to junior forward Colleen Moore, who found the back of net for her third goal of the weekend.
"I love taking balls down to the end line and looking for people who are coming up," Yenne said. "I'm always looking to pass when you don't have an angle like that. It's just a great way to score goals, because the goalie is not expecting it. She's expecting you to shoot."
At the 54:57 mark, Yenne notched a goal of her own when she collected a pass from senior midfielder Meredith Stewart, beat a Davidson defender one-on-one and then tucked the ball inside the right post to put the Crimson up 4-0.
She finished the weekend with a goal and three assists, and currently leads the team in scoring with 14 points.
"Joey's a special kind of player," Wheaton said. "She's one of those players who can get a ball and make something out of nothing. We saw that today."
Wheaton subbed through his entire roster against the Wildcats, inserting nine players into the game off the bench. Three of those substitutes--juniors Meghan O'Brien, Caitlin Costello and Heather Gotha--each netted goals in the second half.
Gotha also added an assist in the game to record her first career points.
"We have tons of players we have confidence in," Wheaton said. "Fresh legs always help us."
Davidson never quite mustered a prolonged threat on offense. Sophomore keeper Cheryl Gunther was forced to make just one save in the first half before giving way to freshman Mollie Durkin after the break. The Wildcats applied some pressure as the game winded down, but by that point, the game was well out of reach.
Harvard outshot Davidson in the match, 26-13.
The 7-0 decision was the most lopsided loss suffered all year by the Wildcats, who played No. 9 Duke earlier this season and lost by only two goals. Davidson is currently ranked No. 9 in the Southeast region.
Harvard 3, Cornell 1
The first 45 minutes against Cornell (1-8, 1-3) featured little but light rain. But once the second half got underway, it started raining Colleen Moore goals.
The junior forward scored the first of her two goals in the game--her first two of the season--when a gorgeous Ripmaster cross from the right side found her right in front of the net. Moore converted, and the Crimson led, 1-0, just over a minute into the second period.
"Colleen was just due," Wheaton said. "She had been doing exactly what we wanted of her all year, and just hadn't been able to find the back of the net."
Westfall added an insurance goal with just under three minutes to play. Co-captain Brooke McCarthy sent a long serve downfield within 10 feet of three Cornell defenders. Surprisingly, none of them claimed it. Westfall, however, never gave up on the play, and swooped in on the ball 20 yards from the goal. She drove the ball forward and found the inside of the left post to extend Harvard's lead to 2-0.
Moore was the beneficiary of another perfect feed in front of the net with three minutes left in the game. In a move she used to perfection all weekend, Yenne walked the ball in from the end line and sent it past two Cornell defenders to the waiting Moore, who fired it past Cornell goalkeeper Martha Shaughnessy for her second score of the day.
"I just got a beautiful ball from Orly, and then another beautiful ball from Joey," said Moore. "I would've been bad not to put those in."
Cornell broke the shutout in the last minute, when freshman forward Alicia Dolittle drove the ball within 18 yards of Harvard's goal. She sent a shot just past the outstretched arms of sophomore keeper Cheryl Gunther and into the right side of the net.
But it was Dolittle, too late. Harvard won its second Ivy League game of the year en route to its fourth straight Harvard Invitational championship.
"Women's soccer in the Ivy League is so competitive, you can't afford a stumble," Wheaton said. "We put ourselves behind the eight ball with a loss to Brown. We hope someone beats them, but we know we can't count on two people beating them. So every 'W' really matters."
A Cornell team that came into the game with very few 'W's also entered with a plan to stop Harvard's superior scoring attack. The Big Red put a trapping strategy into place that effectively disrupted the Crimson offense early in the contest.
The strategy baited the Crimson into six offsides calls in the first half and kept the game close, despite the fact that Harvard dominated the possession throughout.
"It's very tempting," Wheaton said of the trap. "They lay it out for you and you just say, 'Ah, I'll just put it behind them.' They posed a problem we're really not used to."
Wheaton preached patience in the halftime huddle, and the talk paid immediate benefits with Moore's first goal.
"We have good speed, and it's dangerous to pull an offsides trap when you've got good speed up front," Moore said. "That's why we did better with it in the second half, even though it took a little bit of time to iron it out."