Fortunately for the Crimson, it can’t get much tougher.
Faced with the daunting task of opening its 2004 season against No. 6 Portland and No. 4 Penn State in the UConn Adidas Classic, Harvard (1-3-0) hit the road last weekend.
After two close decisions left the Crimson winless, the squad headed to the George Mason Invitational and grabbed its first victory from the hosting Patriots before a loss to William & Mary gave Harvard a weekend split.
WILLIAM & MARY 1, HARVARD 0
Harvard found itself on the short end of a one goal decision for the third time in four games Saturday when it dropped a heartbreaker to William & Mary at the George Mason Invitational.
The Crimson came out firing, holding a 7-1 shooting advantage and a 5-0 corner kick difference in the first period.
But after 86 minutes of scoreless play, all it took was one shot. Tribe forward Anna Pawlow launched a blast into the top left corner of the net on an assist from teammate Brittany Bode. The junior’s second career goal gave William & Mary just the advantage it would need as Harvard was unable to respond, despite outshooting the Tribe 11-6 in the matchup.
“It was so frustrating to see it come down to that,” said senior midfielder Alisha Moran. “To lose it in 10 minutes—we’re all familiar with that feeling and it wasn’t a good one.”
Junior goalkeeper Katie Shields made four saves in the outing, but saw her record drop to 0-3.
HARVARD 2, GEORGE MASON 0
The Crimson notched its first victory at the George Mason Invitational against the hosting Patriots on Thursday.
Less than 17 minutes into play, senior forward Emily Colvin gave Harvard its first lead of the season with a rocket to the top left corner from 15 yards out. Junior forward Sara Sedgwick and freshman midfielder Megan Merritt recorded the assists.
In the second period, sophomore midfielder Liz Lima set up classmate Katie Johnston with a through ball to the left side. Johnston sent the ball to the back of the net to increase the Crimson’s lead to two.
“It could have been even higher,” Moran said. “We outplayed them. I don’t think 2-0 says enough of our dominance in the game.”
Despite being outshot 5-8, the Crimson held on for the shutout. Junior goalkeeper Maja Agustsdottir kept the Patriots out with five saves in her first appearance of the season.
PENN STATE 1, HARVARD 0
For 80 minutes it appeared that the Crimson players might be able to avoid the same frustration that they felt after their season opening loss to Portland.
But about 10 minutes later, it was deja vu.
Nittany Lions’ forward Tiffany Weimer beat her defender and tallied a goal in the 81st minute to hand Harvard its second consecutive one-goal defeat to start the season.
The Crimson once again had trouble creating scoring chances against a top-10 opponent, as Penn State outshot Harvard 11-2 in the first half and 21-8 in the game.
For the most part, Shields was up to the task in goal, tallying 10 saves for the Crimson in the loss. She was named to the All-tournament team along with freshman back Michelle Hull.
PORTLAND 3, HARVARD 2
In its first game of the season, Harvard battled highly-touted Portland to a standstill over the first 36 minutes of action.
But Pilot freshman Natalie Budge scored two goals less than a minute apart to give Portland what would prove to be an insurmountable lead.
The Crimson did not submit without a fight. Sedgwick converted a pass from captain back Liza Barber in the 54th minute to reduce the margin to just a single goal.
Unfortunately for Harvard, an upset ultimately proved to be just out of its reach. A Pilot goal in the 75th minute gave Portland a two goal edge, and although Colvin tallied for the Crimson just three minutes later on an assist from sophomore midfielder Katie Johnston, it was too little, too late.
“If we had had some more time, we definitely could have pulled through with another goal and brought it into overtime,” Moran said.
Shields made eight saves in net for Harvard, allowing the Crimson to stay in the contest despite being outshot 24-5.
—Staff writer Carrie H. Petri can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Jonathan P. Hay can be reached at email@example.com.