Freshman defender Lizzy Nichols managed four shots, but did not score a goal in Harvard’s shutout defeat against Princeton.
When the Harvard women’s soccer team (3-11-1, 2-3-0 Ivy) suffered its third straight loss, 5-0, at Princeton on Saturday night, its defensive collapse in the eleventh minute of the second half told the story of the team’s weak play.
With the Crimson already trailing 3-0 at the 56th minute, Princeton’s Vicki Anangnostopaulos, who had already netted two goals, doubled her total in a mere 33 seconds, giving her a golden sombrero on a career night.
Anangnostopaulos’s performance put her in elite company: only three other Princeton women have scored four goals in a game, most recently in 1998. The Tigers shut out Harvard for only the second time in the teams’ history of 27 meetings.
The back-to-back goals unfolded similarly, as Anangnostopaulos found open space for a quality shot on the left side after receiving a long pass from midfielder Lauren Thomas.
“It was a lack of focus, and the way we reacted to the first one was we dug ourselves deeper instead of coming together,” said head Coach Erica Walsh. “I thought that was a little bit of a theme tonight.”
From the start, the Tigers had little difficulty keeping the ball at Harvard’s end as the Crimson defenders looked hurried in making what were often inaccurate or uncontrollable clearing passes to the midfield.
“The tone was set early,” Walsh said. “Our heads weren’t in it. The tone was set to the point where we couldn’t dig ourselves out of the hole.”
The Tigers (6-7-1, 1-4 Ivy), who outshot the Crimson 12-7, quickly took advantage of their strong field position as Anangnostopaulos rapidly dribbled Lauren Thomas’s first of three assists past a charging Lauren Mann, the Crimson keeper, for an easy goal.
If the Crimson could have reversed Princeton’s mounting momentum, it would have needed help from the officials. With 15:50 left in the first half, Princeton goalie Maren Dale charged a Harvard cross but could not hold on to the ball. After a collision, Harvard had possession in front of an open net, but Dale lay on the ground with goalie interference the call against the Crimson.
While it was unclear whether Dale had possession at the time of contact, the call could have gone either way. An equalizing goal might have provided the spark the Crimson needed to match the home team’s intensity.
But with 11:36 left in the first half, Princeton’s Diana Matheson took advantage of some defensive commotion in the Crimson’s box to bury a cross from the right sideline.
Despite Crimson attempts to regroup at halftime, Anangnostopaulos scored her second goal only 3:42 after the teams retook the field. The freshman dribbled through Harvard’s defense to a prime shooting spot in the center of the box, then launched a shot from outside ten yards that beat Mann low on her left.
The lopsided score allowed Walsh a chance to send some of her less experienced players into action. Sophomore goalkeeper Maggie Robinson saw her first Harvard minutes in net as she spelled Mann, who left the game with four saves, with a solid three-save effort in ten minutes of work. Junior Susie Wilson also saw her first minutes of the season at forward.
Still hobbled by an injury to sophomore defender Allison Keeley, the Crimson deployed a three-defensive back formation, which allowed freshman Lizzy Nichols more freedom both at the Crimson end and in the midfield.
But Harvard still struggled to establish possession, losing many contested balls in the air off goal kicks or punts.
“They had a great player in their center midfielder, who was a great header,” sophomore Nicole Rhodes said. “But I think the main problem was not coming ready and focused.”
The Crimson will take the field again next Saturday in Hanover, N.H. for an 11:00 a.m. game against Ivy League rival Dartmouth.