W. Soccer Can't Hold On Against No. 6 Penn State

The Harvard women’s soccer team was a stew of ambivalent emotions following yesterday’s game against Penn State. In its consciousness was lingering euphoria—the result of a 1-0 halftime lead over the nation’s sixth-ranked team—soon to be countered by the sting of blowing that lead one hour later.

“Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to win this, and we had every expectation of doing it and I’m disappointed,” said Harvard coach Tim Wheaton. “But I think the No. 6 team in the country left feeling like they were fortunate, and that says something about our program, though I’d rather have said it with a ‘W’.”

The game with Penn State was the second of two for Harvard in its invitational tournament. The Crimson (2-1) beat Central Connecticut 4-0 in the tourney opener on Friday. Boston College, who beat Central Connecticut and tied Penn State, ended up splitting the tournament title with the Nittany Lions.

The common thread to both of Harvard’s games was the uplifting halftimes. In each contest, the Crimson scored the game’s first goal in the final minute of the first half—a tribute to substitutes which allowed Harvard to keep its legs down the stretch.

Penn State 2, Harvard 1

Yesterday’s game had all the elements that one would come to expect from world-class soccer—textbook goals, effortless passing and inexplicable officiating.

The classic goal from Harvard came thanks to junior Joey Yenne and freshman central midfielder Maile Tavepholjalern. Possessing at the 18, Yenne beat a pair of defenders and worked a perfect give-and-go with Tavepholjalern inside the box for the 1-0 lead with 36 seconds left in the half.

“It was textbook soccer. It was how we like to play. That’s what made it the best,” Yenne said. “We were getting chances all half and finally something came [of it].”

“You won’t see a much prettier goal than that one,” Wheaton added.

More chances came early in the second half, but they were nullified by a combination of Penn State’s physical defenders and the lack of any authority controlling them. Twice in the same minute, the Nittany Lions took down Harvard’s 5’3 junior All-American Katie Westfall from behind as she approached free balls inside the penalty area.

By the game’s final 10 minutes, it was clear that few if any fouls would be called, and Harvard started taking liberties of its own. The referees, suddenly looking to control the game, suddenly switched the opposite extremes of enforcement and whistled any observable physical contact.

Regardless, it was the lack of physical presence that cost Harvard in the end. The Crimson, playing its 3-5-2, controlled the ball well in the first half through its crowded midfield. But in the second half, Lions coach Paul Wilkins took more initiative to get behind the Harvard defense.

Given that Penn State featured National Player of the Year Christie Welsh in front, Harvard couldn’t afford to let that happen too often, and as lapses began in the second half, freshman goalkeeper Katie Shields made several acrobatic saves to keep Penn State off the scoreboard.

But Welsh finally made Harvard pay just over two-thirds into the game, when she set up the Big Ten’s second-leading scorer, Heidi Drummond, for a header and a 1-1 tie. Then, with five minutes left, she drew Shields far out of the net and lobbed the ball over her for the game-winner.

Shields, who made 12 saves for the day, was Harvard’s representative on the All-Tournament team.

While most of the action in the second half was on the field, there was a subplot developing on the sidelines as Yenne worked hard to recover from a high ankle sprain she sustained early second half, which she sustained when two Penn State defenders sandwiched her as she approached the 18.

Yenne finally reentered the game with just under five minutes left.

“When they scored the second goal, I said, ‘screw it, I got to get out there,’” she said.

But it was too little, too late in the end, as Harvard struggled to get the ball up to its frontrunners in the final minutes.

While the Crimson came up short this week, the closeness of this week’s game left the team eager for more of a challenge next week. In that sense, the trip to Washington to play the No. 16 Huskies and No. 17 Portland could not have come at a better time.

“I think we’re all really disappointed with the loss, but we’re really looking forward to next week. We want to win both of those games, and I think we’re very capable,” Yenne said.

Harvard 4, Central Connecticut 0

After exactly 44 minutes and 59 seconds of Harvard domination negated by missed opportunities, the Crimson’s fresh legs finally paid off.

Freshman Rebecca Mildrew entered the game in the final minutes of the first half and outran everyone on the field in getting the sophomore Emily Colvin for a clear shot in the net from the right. The ball deflected to the opposite side where freshman Sara Sedgwick finished it with the first touch of her career.

The goal came with one second left, which was allowed to tick off the clock.

The Crimson then took control in the second half, scoring two goals in the first five minutes. The first came from junior Beth Totman, who got a fortunate bounce of the post, on a shot that was set up by Westfall. The second came from Westfall herself, who found a narrow hole on the right side and hit a long shot past the Central Connecticut keeper.

The Crimson’s final goal was set up by an extra effort from junior co-captain Katie Hodel, who pressed the Central Connecticut defense, forced a turnover, and got the ball to freshman Allison Kaveney, who scored her frst career goal.

Shields made three saves in net for the shutout but was never seriously tested.