But the Wildcats (2-0) struck back, intercepting an errant pass, running the ball back into the Crimson zone and holding on for the rest of the game. Northwestern sophomore Courtney Flynn’s goal off a free position shot with nine seconds remaining proved to be the final nail in the coffin, sealing a 7-4 victory for the Wildcats.
Northwestern looked to have already locked the game up long before. Sitting on a comfortable 6-3 lead, the Wildcats began to stall with at least twenty minutes left in the game. However, Harvard co-captain midfielder Katie Shaughnessy tallied her second goal of the game on a hard, bouncing shot that brought the Crimson (0-1) back into contention with 12:37 left.
Harvard pressed hard in the last 10 minutes, putting a number of shots on goal, but failed to get any more past Wildcats goalie Ashley Gersuk, who had seven saves on the day.
The Crimson was buoyed all game by its strong defense. Co-captain midfielder Leslie Moroz led the way, while junior Kelly Noon, playing cover point, had a big impact.
“I thought our defense played well and adjusted well to their style of play,” Harvard coach Carole Kleinfelder said.
Freshman Allison Kaveney also performed well on defense, living up to her nickname—“Moose”. On one play, she knocked down a Northwestern player in front of the Crimson bench, then chased after a second Wildcat who had the ball.
Starting from at least 10 feet behind her mark, Kaveney quickly closed the gap. After catching up, she viciously struck down at her opponent’s stick, knocking the ball loose and sending the Northwestern player flying to the ground.
The teams tried to remain focused in spite of the cold rain that fell throughout the game and became a downpour by the end of the second half.
“It was definitely not the ideal conditions, but we’ve played in worse,” Shaughnessy said.
The Harvard offense had difficulty establishing a rhythm, possibly due in part to the poor weather that made the turf slippery. Harvard often appeared tentative, passing the ball around in front of the Northwestern goal without getting many quality shots.
“I thought that our attack didn’t attack the goal,” Kleinfelder said. “They were passing the ball around, looking for someone else to take the shot. I felt that we had more opportunities than they did, but we didn’t convert, especially in the first half.”
“I think attack is where we struggled,” Shaughnessy agreed. “It just didn’t come together. It could have been first-game jitters.”
Along with Shaughnessy, whose two goals led the way for the Crimson, junior midfielder Jen Brooks and sophomore midfielder Elaine Belitsos each netted one. Harvard will need much more production from its attack if it hopes to be competitive this season.
“In terms of the attack, we need to focus on wanting to score, being hungry to score,” Kaveney said.
But Kleinfelder was encouraged by the Crimson’s performance.
“Good things came out of this,” Kleinfelder said. “We’ve got a young team, and I saw some good things out there. It’s nice to know that we have depth on the bench.”
Harvard doesn’t play again until Saturday, when it faces off against Massachusetts at Jordan Field. The players hope to use Sunday’s result to motivate them in the upcoming week.
“It was the first game, and I definitely feel that we can only improve from here,” Shaughnessy said. “We’re disappointed, but I think that will give us that much more incentive to work hard in practice, and to go out and play with intensity in our next game.”