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.