After beating Dartmouth on Halloween, the Harvard women’s soccer team (9-6-1, 6-1 Ivy) knew they had the Ivy League Championship crown, and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, in the bag. But the Crimson wanted more.
Saturday’s 2-1 win against Columbia (7-7-3, 3-3-1 Ivy), the Crimson’s last match of the regular season, was far from a final formality, but rather redemption after sharing the Ancient Eight title last year.
“Because we’ve already clinched the Ivy League and the berth in the NCAA tournament, it would have been easy to come out soft, but it wasn’t like that at all,” said sophomore Melanie Baskind, who scored both of the Crimson’s goals. “It was a question of pride, winning the league outright instead of sharing with Yale.”
“We had that feeling last year obviously winning but also sharing the title which sucked,” senior goalkeeper Lauren Mann added. “There was big motivation going into this to prove that we did deserve to be outright champions.”
A championship game it definitely was. Excitement for an early Harvard win became a whole different emotion when, with 15 seconds left on the clock, Columbia’s Lauren Cook headed in a goal off of a free kick to send it into overtime.
“As soon as that [tying goal] happened, we thought ‘How do we respond to this? What can we do to get it back?’” Baskind said. “We were fired up, and there was no way we were going to go down without a fight after that goal.”
Harvard remained unfazed and with the last remaining seconds Crimson junior Katherine Sheeleigh took a shot that went wide. Five minutes into overtime, the missing goal arrived from Baskind, her fourth of the season.
“I was trying to ask some people after how that actually happened,” Baskind explained. “I know I got the ball from Sheeleigh, and it went in the right side of the goal, but it was all a blur.”
The Crimson’s first goal also came off the foot of Baskind, ten minutes into the first half as she took a pass from sophomore Hana Taiji and ricocheted it behind the hands of Lion goalkeeper Lindsay Danielson.
“Mel’s goal was sick,” Mann said. “It was an amazing goal, and I think the team did well to stick with it and carry it into the second half.”
The middle of the game was especially trying as Harvard and Columbia battled it out for the win.
“It was definitely an end-to-end kind of game; a very emotionally charged game for both teams, and both teams laid it out there,” Harvard coach Ray Leone said. “That last 20 minutes was unbelievable. Columbia was throwing everything at us and scored a great goal to tie the game up.”
“They kind of threw everything in,” Mann added. “We did really well to keep fighting and hold off the onslaught of attack.”
Despite the barrage, Harvard was impressed with its ability to stay relaxed and confident—helpful traits as the Crimson heads into the NCAA tournament.
“No one had any doubt that we weren’t going to win, it was just a matter of when we were going to score,” Mann said. “Obviously we wanted to score before time even ran out—Sheeleigh took a great chance—but as soon as we went into overtime we knew it was only a matter of time before we got one.”