Filling in for injured junior goalkeeper Lauren Mann (shown), classmate Laura Dale has stepped up to continue what has been a strong defensive season for Harvard. The Crimson has allowed only three goals in its last five games and only two in Ivy contests
The Harvard women’s soccer team is on a roll.
Having won its past five matchups, the Crimson holds second place in the Ivy League standings and trails its upcoming opponent, Princeton, by just one point. And if Harvard continues to play as it has been, outscoring opponents five to one during the course of its winning streak, the outcome of that game looks good for anyone wearing a Crimson jersey.
But while Harvard’s offense has dominated opponents, the goalkeepers’ complete shutdown of its opponents may be even more remarkable. The Crimson’s goaltending corps of juniors Lauren Mann and Laura Dale and senior Maggie Robinson has allowed only three goals during the past five games, and only two goals over all four of their Ivy League matches.
“Our group of goalkeepers is fantastic,” Mann said. “It’s always a very competitive environment and everyone always works really hard for each other.”
Mann, who holds a decisive majority of the playing time this season, is a force to be reckoned with. Leading the team with 50 saves and an impressive .833 save percentage, Mann has effectively shut down her opponents’ offenses.
“Lauren’s awesome,” Robinson said. “She has come up with some of the best saves that anyone on our team has ever seen.”
Mann’s ability to consistently make point-blank and back-to-the-bar saves has also set her apart from other Ivy League goaltenders—the junior was selected the league’s rookie of the year in 2006 and to the All-Ivy Second Team a year ago.
“[Mann] just comes up with the save time and time again,” Dale said. “She’s a phenomenal all-around goal keeper.”
However, Dale herself has been thrust into the Crimson spotlight lately. Though she did not play in her first two seasons at Harvard, Dale has come up big for her team in covering for an injured Mann.
Dale registered a shutout in her first-ever Ivy League matchup against Brown last weekend—delivering a decisive 3-0 win—and has also tallied an impressive set of statistics during the course of the season. Dale has blocked 36 shots on goal, registering a whopping .947 save percentage for the year.
Dale, however, credits her teammates with a bit of her success.
“It was hard coming in when Lauren had a concussion, but [my teammates] were saying ‘you can do this, you can do this!’” Dale said.
Harvard now has a double threat in the net, with both Mann on the mend and Dale developing into a well-seasoned keeper. This additional layer of experience, according to head coach Ray Leone, is invaluable.
“[Mann and Dale] are both ready to go now,” Leone said. “Whenever keepers play a lot, they get better—there’s no way to replace game experience.”
Rounding out the Crimson goaltending unit is Robinson, a four-year returner to the Harvard team. Although, the Athens, Ga. native has only seen action in one game this season, Robinson has brought an indispensible dynamic to her team.
“[Maggie] really holds us together,” Dale said. “She knows what the Ivy League is like and knows all of us players so well.”
The Crimson goalies have proved themselves as a decisive force this season, but the three keepers have attributed a large amount of their success to their teammates, both on offense and defense.
“It makes it a lot easier to play goalie well when your team gets up early and your defense has been blocking shots,” Dale said. “It makes us goalkeepers look better.”
Even if these humble statements don’t quite match up with the impressive saves registered by Harvard’s goaltenders, they speak multitudes to the cohesion of the team as a whole.
With an intimidating offense, solid defensive unit, and three very capable keepers, the outlook for the Crimson’s Ivy League future is only one thing—very, very bright.
—Staff writer Alexandra J. Mihalek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.