After last night’s 2-0 victory over Holy Cross, Harvard women’s soccer coach Ray Leone may need to bring in a doctor from UHS to check if his team is suffering from bipolar disorder.
Nine games into the season, Harvard (3-5-1, 1-0 Ivy) has been a team with two faces. On the road, the Crimson’s record is 0-4. But with junior Caroline Kutler and senior Christina Hagner’s first half goals, the Crimson showed its other face last night, defeating Holy Cross (5-4-1) under the lights at Cumnock Turf and improving its home record to 3-1-1.
While the Crusaders came out firing in the game’s opening minutes, Harvard’s defense came up strong on several occasions to keep Holy Cross off the scoreboard. After Harvard withheld the initial onslaught, it managed to generate advantageous offensive opportunities as well.
Unlike the Crusaders, Harvard was able to capitalize on them.
Holy Cross’ first scoring opportunity arose just eight minutes into the contest. With Harvard senior goalie Lauren Mann on the ground after diving for a ball, it looked as if the Crusaders had an open shot on goal.
But sophomore defender Lindsey Kowal, a member of the United States Under-23 Women’s National Team, dove to the ball just in time to knock it away.
“[The defense] was compact,” Kowal said. “Everyone was really on their game [and] physical, which is good.”
Holy Cross’s next scoring opportunity came five minutes later when senior forward Shelby Stand, who leads the Patriot League in goals-per-game, fired a shot that ricocheted off the corner post flying out of bounds.
For the Crimson, defending Stand was of the upmost importance.
“She’s big and strong so we made sure that someone was in front of her and keeping an eye on her throughout the game,” Kowal said.
Harvard struck blood first in the 25th minute when Kutler finished a play that left fans impressed. After sophomore Melanie Baskind crossed the ball into the box, junior Katherine Sheeleigh tipped it behind her to Cutler, who sent the ball through the hands of Holy Cross goalie Mary Ferketic.
“I just found [the ball] in the box,” said Kutler. “I just wanted to put it away.”
Kutler continued on to orchestrate the Crimson’s second scoring opportunity seven minutes later. Kutler dribbled the ball up the left side of the field but was quickly trapped by a Crusader defender on the sideline. Cradling the ball with her back to the defender, Kutler wrapped the ball around and created enough space to get a pass off to Hagner as she cut to the goal. Hagner faked one way, then shot the other and planted the ball in the right corner of the net to give the Harvard a commanding 2-0 lead.
Hagner, who plays both forward and midfielder, led the Crimson last season in scoring. The California native, however, missed significant playing time at the beginning of this season with an injury to her left knee. But Hagner returned to her old ways last night as she scored her second goal of the season and her second goal against the Crusaders in as many years.
“Since this weekend against Penn, I’ve felt 100%,” Hagner said. “I feel like I can do everything that I want to do on the ball. I’m not debilitated in any way.”
After a slow start this season in which Harvard took away only a single victory in its first seven matches, the Crimson appears to have righted the ship, winning its Ivy League opener against Penn last weekend.
“In general I think our team is really starting to come together,” Hagner said.
To achieve another consecutive 10-win season, Harvard will have to win its next seven matches starting with Ivy rival Yale this Saturday.
“We really needed another win to solidify,” Kutler said. “We had a rocky start to the beginning of the season and I’m just so excited to go into Yale with this win. I hope we can kick some butt this weekend.”