Junior midfielder Rachel Lau scored her first goal of the season, but the Crimson lost its Ivy League opener by a 2-1 count at Yale.
The Harvard women’s soccer team opened Ivy League play Friday night at Yale with a tough loss, going down, 2-1, in overtime.
Under the lights in New Haven, the Crimson (5-3-1, 0-1-0 Ivy) and the Bulldogs (5-4-0, 1-0-0) put on quite a spectacle for more than 1,200 spectators in attendance.
In the end, though, Harvard fell just short, bringing an end to its four-game win streak.
Playing rival Yale is always a big occasion for the Crimson, and the match did not disappoint. With the play moving quickly from end to end, the game included 35 total shots between the two teams, 16 of which were on target.
With the score tied at 1 at the end of regulation, the two teams went into sudden-death extra time. The fast pace of play left both sets of players tired heading into the additional frames.
The match did not go on for too much longer, though, as in the fourth minute of overtime the Bulldogs’ Maggie Westfal took a centering pass from Kate Macauley and fired the ball past sophomore goalkeeper Lauren Mann to end the game.
The heartbreaking loss left the players bitterly disappointed but proud of their effort.
“We left everything on the field tonight,” junior captain Nikki Rhodes said.
Harvard set up in an attacking 4-3-3 formation to start the match, but it was Yale who set the tone early. The Crimson fought hard and, despite being outplayed in the first half, went into the break in a scoreless tie.
Yale grabbed the opening goal in the 49th minute when a Westfal cross was met by teammate Caitlin Collins, who beat Mann.
The goal ended Mann’s impressive four-game shutout streak and was the first Harvard had given up in over 430 minutes of play.
The Crimson’s second-half display was much improved, and the squad tallied an equalizer just eight minutes later, courtesy of a 20-yard shot from junior Rachael Lau. Yale keeper Ayana Sumiyasu got her hand on the ball but was unable to keep it out, as it nestled into the top left corner.
The goal was Lau’s first of the season.
Harvard continued to control the second half and had many opportunities to go in front.
Freshman Katherine Sheeleigh, the Crimson’s leading scorer this season, was unable to find the net for the first time in three games. She did produce five shots in the match, though, one of which went just wide near the end of regulation.
Yale, too, created multiple second half chances to go in front, forcing Mann to make six second-half saves.
Coach Ray Leone was pleased with the way Harvard battled for over 90 minutes.
“It was a heck of a game to be a part of, and, unfortunately, we were on the short end,” he said. “You have to give a lot of credit to Yale, but we competed every second of the game. I’m proud of how we fought, especially after going a goal down.”
Sophomore defender Kelli Okuji echoed her coach’s feelings.
“We showed a lot of team spirit and team unity tonight,” she said.
Harvard looks to bounce back from the defeat against Fairfield tomorrow at 3 p.m. at Ohiri Field.