After having its lead cut to a lone goal in the final moments of its game Saturday, the Harvard women’s soccer team found itself forced to fend off an eager Princeton team looking for the equalizer. Withstanding the offensive onslaught, the Crimson dominated possession over the final two minutes to capture the 2-1 win.
“When you face Princeton, you know you’re going to do a lot of chasing and defending,” Harvard coach Ray Leone said. “They kick the ball so well. It was an exhausting game, and Princeton played really well and really stressed our defense incredibly well, and I’m glad we absorbed that.”
Harvard (10-4-1, 4-0-1 Ivy) hosted the Tigers (5-9-1, 1-4-0) under the lights at Soldiers Field Soccer/Lacrosse Stadium on Saturday evening. The Crimson entered the match looking to extend its slim lead over the University of Pennsylvania (12-2-0, 4-1-0) in the Ivy League standings.
Harvard and Princeton opened the match with a long stretch of back-and-forth play, as each team looked for scoring chances.
The first shot opportunity came on a through ball to co-captain Melanie Baskind with 30 minutes to go in the first half, when she fired just wide of the left post from six yards out.
Just minutes later, the Tigers almost found the net off of a bending corner kick. Hooking into the box, the ball came loose, and a scramble ensued. Before any Princeton strikers could get a foot on the ball, Harvard goalkeeper Bethany Kanten secured the ball as she left her line.
The Tigers maintained pressure with a second corner kick moments later, but Kanten thwarted a header with a diving save, keeping the game scoreless with 20 minutes to go in the half.
The Crimson provided a successful response off of a throw-in with 17 minutes remaining in the half. After several attempted clears by the Tiger defense, Harvard freshman Mai Le chested the ball and volleyed a blistering lefty shot just inches inside the right post to give the Crimson a 1-0 lead.
Knowing the danger of Princeton’s relentless offense, the Crimson looked to maintain its composure following the goal.
“We had to get our focus back, concentrate on keeping up our intensity, and keep playing the game,” Le said.
Harvard did just that, as it found itself with another scoring chance with 12 minutes to go in the half. On a through ball out of the midfield, Baskind outran the Princeton defense and sent a shot just outside the frame.
Just prior to the halftime break, the Crimson faced a scare, as the Tigers received a direct kick just outside the 18-yard box. The penalty chance amounted to nothing, as the Harvard defense cleared the shot before it even approached the goal.
The Crimson addressed both its offensive and defensive needs at the half.
“We talked about converting on the chances we were getting on the flanks ... and making dangerous runs in the box,” Baskind said. “Our defense was playing well, and we just needed to keep winning balls out of the air.”
After the second half rolled around, the Tigers began to dominate possession.