While goals were in short supply during the opening weeks of the Harvard women’s soccer team’s season, the games certainly weren’t lacking for drama.
After dominating an exhibition game against Cape Breton University, Harvard (2-1-0) shut out both Binghamton (4-1-1) and Syracuse (1-4-0) before suffering its first defeat of the season to Central Connecticut (4-1-0) on Friday.
All three regular season games resulted in final scores of 1-0, as Crimson co-captain goalie Katie Shields began to improve upon last year’s already-impressive 0.90 GAA, which helped her net second team All-Ivy honors.
“The big thing for us this year is that we’re going through a lot of change,” said co-captain back Laura Odorczyk. “We have new coaches. We have a lot of freshmen that are really good and playing key roles for us. With a small team that we have, we really have to come together as a team. It’s sort of a curse but it’s also a blessing at the same time because everyone knows their role.”
CENTRAL CONNECTICUT 1, HARVARD 0
In a tightly-contested game between the Crimson—ranked fourth in the Northeast Region prior to the game—and the regionally fifth-ranked Blue Devils, Harvard was unable to overcome and early deficit and lost its first match of the season.
Just minutes into the game, Shields was unable to corral a Central Connecticut direct kick and the rebound was fired past her—the first goal surrendered by Harvard all season—leaving the Crimson trailing early.
Harvard would ultimately be unable to rally. The team could only record two shots on goal, compared to four for the Blue Devils, with freshman midfielder Rachel Lau and sophomore forward Becky Smith coming closest to scoring for the Crimson.
“We definitely could have beaten Central Connecticut, but it was just one of those days where nothing was going right for us,” said Odorczyk. “There wasn’t one thing going wrong, but no one was playing well and we just weren’t clicking as a team.”
The shutout by Central Connecticut senior goalie Ashley Ferra was her fourth of the young season.
HARVARD 1, SYRACUSE 0
Shields was not the only Harvard player picking up when she left off in 2004. Sophomore midfielder Megan Merritt—the Crimson’s leading scorer last season—registered her first tally of the season against the Orange, creating the final margin.
With time winding down at the end of the first half, sophomore forward Becky Smith collected the ball near the endline and sent a cross towards the goal. Merritt rose above her defender and headed the ball into the corner of the goal for the only score of the contest.
“It was one of the most awesome goals I’ve ever seen,” said Odorczyk.
Despite having just two corner kicks to Syracuse’s seven, Harvard outshot the Orange by an 8-4 margin, and Shields was required to make just three saves in recording her second shutout of the season.
HARVARD 1, BINGHAMTON 0
In a game that saw the Crimson dominate play and fire over three quarters of the shots, it was a pair of freshman seeing their first collegiate action that rescued Harvard from a frustrating tie.
After 80 minutes of scoreless action, Lau found classmate Erin Wylie with a corner kick, and Wylie’s header provided the winning score for the Crimson.
“Set pieces are our thing this year,” said Odorczyk. “I think we’re really good at corners and free kicks. We have a lot of people who win balls in the box and in the air. We’re really excited whenever we get a set piece because we know we can put it away.”
In addition to Wylie and Lau, backs Nicole Rhodes and Allison Keeley also represented the class of ’09 in the starting lineup in the regular season opener for Harvard.
“We have a smaller team [this year], so the freshmen definitely have a big role,” said senior midfielder Maile Tavepholjalern. “You can see it in our lineup.”
Shields recorded the shutout by saving the only shot on goal that the Bearcats could muster.
HARVARD 5, CAPE BRETON UNIVERSITY 0 (EXHIBITION)
Before beginning the season, the Crimson warmed up by taking on the Capers in an exhibition game.
Harvard scored early and often en route to a five-goal victory.
“It was the first time we actually played with eleven-on-eleven because we have a really small team, so the most we can play at practice is eight-on-eight,” said Odorczyk. “We really needed that before a [regular season] game.”
Freshman back Nicole Rhodes scored two goals for the Crimson, both via headers off corner kicks.
—Staff writer Jonathan P. Hay can be reached at email@example.com.