SEASON RECAP: Despite Lack Of Experience, Young Team Surprises Many

In just her first year, Erin Wylie leads Crimson in goals scored

IMPENETRABLE SHIELDS
Jessica E. Zbikowski

Co-captain Katie Shields allowed only eight goals all season, keeping Harvard in games despite a low-scoring offense. The senior finished the season with a .908 save percentage, good enough for fourth in the nation.

For a team starting four freshmen and lacking substantial depth, few people expected significant results from the 2005 Harvard women’s soccer squad.

A freshman leading the team in goals—no way, but it happened.

Defeating a No. 16 Ohio State powerhouse—not likely, but the Crimson pulled it off.

Notching an incredible eleven shutouts—get out of town, but co-captain Katie Shields did it.

Expectations can be deceiving.

Highlighted by such outstanding performances, the Crimson surprised a lot of observers who did not know where to place the team in the preseason pecking order.

At the end of the 2005 campaign, it finished 8-5-3, with a 2-3-2 mark in the Ivy League.

But with a strong youth movement in place, headed by the team’s leading scorer in freshman Erin Wylie, Harvard will look to continue to surprise people next year.

“This year it was hard for us with very low numbers,” junior co-captain Laura Odorczyk said. “But we have a lot of good forwards coming in to make a big difference for next year, and I think it’s only going to go up from here.”

Harvard coach Stephanie Erickson and the assistant coach’s recruiting efforts this past spring paid off, as the Crimson will feature an incoming class of 10 to 12 freshmen in the fall.

It’s a good sign for a team whose chief concern in 2005 was depth.

“I think they’re going forward next year with such talented players returning,” Shields said. “And the work the coaches will do and the attitude they will bring to the freshman will take this team up to the next level.”

The team will miss the experience Shields gave it in goal last season. In notching 11 shutouts, she shattered the Harvard record and led the young team with skill and dedication.

In addition to Wylie, rising junior midfielder Megan Merritt will also spark improvement for the team after an impressive sophomore campaign. Both will hope they can focus the team’s effort on the main tangible weakness of 2005—scoring goals.

The Crimson was last in the Ivies with only 14 goals scored, offset by an Ivy-best eight goals against.

Without Shields, who was a consistent and reliable force for the Crimson last season, the need for more offense will become more apparent.

“I think we’re definitely going to focus on our offense and attack,” Wylie said. “We’re definitely looking to score more goals this upcoming season.”

That fact was painfully obvious for the Crimson in its two toughest losses of the season—a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Dartmouth, losing in the 72nd minute, and a second-straight heartbreaking loss to Princeton, this time 2-1 in double-overtime with 14 seconds to play.

“Our two losses to Princeton in the last two years are a huge motivation for next year,” Odorczyk said. “We can’t let that happen again.”

­—Staff writer Walter E. Howell can be reached at wehowell@fas.harvard.edu.

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