With the result, the Crimson (7-5-3, 1-3-2 Ivy) saw its chances of obtaining an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament grow a bit slimmer, while the Big Green (11-3-1, 4-1-0) now finds itself alone in first place in the Ivy League after Columbia shocked Yale on Friday.
The loss comes on the heels of Harvard’s excruciating 2-1 loss to Princeton at Ohiri Field last weekend, when the Tigers scored the game winning goal with just 14 seconds remaining. Prior to these two games, the Crimson hadn’t lost a game at home.
Saturday’s game was scoreless through the first half, as both teams threatened but neither could break through. With around 18 minutes remaining on the clock, Dartmouth gained a corner kick when a Big Green shot deflected off the crossbar and was knocked out of bounds by a Harvard defender.
On the ensuing play, Dartmouth forward Sarah Johnson found diminutive forward Christina Ferraris directly in front of the net. She flicked it on with her head, and the ball found its way into the back of the net in the midst of the confusion.
“It’s a bummer,” Harvard coach Stephanie Erickson said. “I thought we played well. We definitely played some of our best soccer, especially earlier in the game. We looked more dangerous.”
Ferraris—who also scored the game-winning goal against the Crimson in a 2-1 Dartmouth overtime victory in 2003—appeared to have scored a second goal just afterwards, but it was waved off due to an offside. Soon after, she was carried off the field after a collision with Harvard senior midfielder Maile Tavepholjalern.
Trailing late in the game, the Crimson pushed hard for the equalizer. Junior co-captain back Laura Odorczyk moved up from her regular position to play forward in an effort to give the offense some extra firepower.
“It was do or die at that point,” Odorczyk said. “I’m glad I got the opportunity, but I didn’t really know what I was doing out there. Not something I really do.”
“Laura is great,” Erickson said. “She’s courageous. She’ll take people one-on-one, and she’s super fast. She’s hungry to score, so she’s the likely option to push forward.”
With Odorczyk joining freshman Erin Wylie and sophomore Megan Kerr at forward, Harvard sent the ball repeatedly into the Big Green end, but was rebuffed by a Dartmouth defense that had a lead to protect. Kerr had a chance for a goal in the 84th minute, but was unable to keep her shot on net.
The mood was noticeably different on the Crimson sideline than it had been in the past. Prior to the Princeton game, Harvard had never been able to tie up a game that it had trailed in, but last weekend’s comeback seemed to give Crimson players new confidence that they could overcome Saturday’s deficit.
“We know we can come back,” Odorczyk said. “We had a lot of opportunities. We should have had a goal—we should have had a couple of goals. We were confident. Even when we got scored on, we were like, ‘we’re dominating this game, it’s not a big deal.’ [But], as the clock ticks down, and you’re just trying to bang it up, they’re dropping back, and you’re outnumbered on offense.”
Harvard also got a temporary boost from the return of sophomore forward Jamie Greenwald, who has missed time with a bone bruise. Sporting a large wrapping on her ankle, she replaced Kerr in the second half but did not spend much time on the field.
Earlier in the game, the two teams fought a see-saw battle. The Crimson’s best chance came when Wylie got behind the defense on a breakaway, but her low shot was smothered by the goalie. Tavepholjalern also had an opportunity to give Harvard a lead in the first half when she gathered a loose ball in the box, but her low shot went wide.
On the other end, co-captain goalie Katie Shields kept the game scoreless with five saves, including a number of high shots that she snagged or punched over the crossbar.
Saturday’s game was also a homecoming for junior midfielder Becky Junkermeier, who was a member of the Crimson last year but transferred to Dartmouth in the offseason. She started the game and registered one shot on goal.
With seven wins on its resume and one remaining match against Columbia next weekend, Harvard still has a shot at the NCAA Tournament. The team received an at-large bid after an eight-win campaign last year, though Odorczyk was quick to point out that the Crimson had a harder schedule last season.
“We have to play for the bigger picture, and we also don’t know what can happen,” Erickson said. “They got in the tournament last year with eight wins, so we’re going to play like there’s still a chance in this season. And then we’re playing for the bigger picture for this program [as well].”
Harvard will conclude the regular season in New York when it faces the Lions on Saturday at 11 a.m.
—Staff writer Jonathan P. Hay can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.