The Harvard women’s soccer team capped off a week of improved offense on Saturday with a 4-0 win over Cornell.
The Crimson (5-4-1, 2-0-1 Ivy) offense was led by junior All-American Katie Westfall, who recorded a goal and an assist as Harvard continued its undefeated Ivy run against the Big Red (6-3-1, 1-3).
The first goal came just 17 minutes into play when freshman Maile Tavepholijalern came off the bench and immediately hit the back of net for the first goal of her Harvard career. Tavepholijalern initiated the play just behind midfield. Senior forward Joey Yenne and Westfall worked the ball back to her in the box, where she finished with a powerful strike to beat Cornell goalkeeper Katie Thomas.
Harvard never looked back while rolling to victory in its third straight shutout. Tavepholijalern attributed Harvard’s improvement to a change from a 3-5-2 formation to a 4-4-2. Besides improving the team defensively, the new formation has also freed up the outside midfielders to attack more, Tavepholijalern said, because the team now has six people crashing the box.
Sophomore Alisha Moran put in the Crimson’s second goal just four minutes later, heading in a perfect cross from freshman Sara Sedgwick. Moran also entered the game as a substitute and scored soon after. Throughout the game, the bench provided a major boost of energy for the Crimson attack.
“We’re really lucky that we’ve got incredible depth, and that there’s not a big difference between the number one on the roster and number 25 on the roster,” said Coach Tim Wheaton. “When they [the subs] come in, there’s not a big change in the level of play on the field.”
The second half brought two more goals for Harvard, the first of which came just over five minutes into the period when Westfall scored off an assist from Joey Yenne. Junior co-captain Katie Hodel closed out the scoring in the 79th minute after connecting with another assist from Sedgwick.
Throughout the game, the Crimson defense completely shut down the Big Red’s attackers, allowing just two shots on goal. Netminding duties were split between freshmen Katie Shields and Maja Augustdottir. Shields had two saves as the duo recorded its third consecutive shutout.
After struggling to score in the early part of the season, the Crimson finished the week with two wins and five goals scored by five different players. Westfall, who scored the third goal against Cornell and assisted senior Beth Totman’s overtime game-winner against Boston College, said that the team has drawn a great deal of confidence from its win over BC.
Prior to defeat of BC, Harvard had a losing record and was unranked in the Northeast region. The victory moved Harvard up to fourth in the region behind UConn, Dartmouth and Hartford. Harvard lost 2-1 to Hartford earlier this season.
“I think BC was a big boost in confidence because we realized we can outplay a team that we consider one of the top two or three in the Northeast,” said co-captain Caitlin Butler. “Although our record doesn’t show it, we know where we belong, which at the top of the region, and that’s what we have to prove against BU and UConn in the next few weeks.”
Now that Harvard has amended its scoring woes, the team plans to work on its set plays off of corner kicks and free kicks, where it has struggled to score this season.
“When it comes down to tighter games at the end of the season, being able to score on set pieces is a real key to offense and we’ve got to take those opportunities,” Butler said.
With two consecutive wins under its belt, Harvard faces a week of regional rivals.
The Crimson’s next contest is at local rival Boston University (4-8-1) tonight at 7 p.m. Harvard will continue its Ivy slate on Saturday at 11 a.m. against Yale (6-3-1, 1-2), which is ranked sixth in the region.
—Contributing writer Chris Schonberger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.