With stress levels soaring in the midst of midterms and a two-game losing streak, the No. 11 Harvard women's soccer team got exactly what it needed yesterday--a day off.
The Crimson (10-4, 4-1 Ivy) did not practice yesterday, electing instead to rest up as it prepares for a crucial match on Sunday against No. 21 Dartmouth in Hanover. The battle will feature the top two teams in the Northeast, as the Crimson and the Big Green (10-4, 3-1 Ivy) are ranked No. 1 and 2 in the region, respectively.
More importantly, Sunday's tilt will once again have a huge impact on the Ivy League standings. In each of the past six seasons, the winner of the Harvard-Dartmouth match-up has gone on to become Ivy League champion. The stakes are no less high this time around, as the Big Green is just half a game in back of the Crimson for first place in the league.
"This is the absolute biggest game of the year," sophomore midfielder Orly Ripmaster said. "If we don't win, we don't win the Ivy League, and that is our entire purpose. Dartmouth is going to be up for this and neither of us wants to be denied."
On Sunday, Harvard will be seeking to regroup after sustaining 1-0 losses to both Penn State and UConn earlier this week. The twin defeats snapped the Crimson's eight-game winning streak and have provided Harvard with back-to-back losses for the first time since the early part of the 1998 campaign.
The most adverse trend of late for the Crimson has been its difficulty converting scoring opportunities into goals. Against Penn State in particular, Harvard posed numerous threats in the offensive end early in the first half, but could not find the back of the net. Those lost opportunities were magnified as the game went on, as the Crimson got fewer and fewer good chances.
And so now Harvard finds itself in its longest scoreless stretch in seven seasons.
The task on offense will not be any easier this weekend against the Big Green. Dartmouth has allowed just two goals in league action so far this season.