Two games, two wins. That’s all that separates the Harvard women’s soccer team from a guaranteed first-place finish in the Ivy League and a chance to compete in the NCAA tournament for the third time in four years.
The Crimson (10-4-1, 4-0-1 Ivy) faces the first of these two tests on Saturday afternoon against league rival Dartmouth (3-11-0, 1-4-0 Ivy) in Harvard’s final home game this year—and the last for its senior class.
For the Harvard class of 2012, a win on Saturday coupled with a Penn tie or loss would guarantee a third Ivy League championship since suiting up for the Crimson as freshmen in 2008.
But the team is first focused on the Big Green, hoping to continue its four-game win streak.
“It’s just about playing good soccer,” Crimson coach Ray Leone said. “That’s all we can focus on, keeping possession and trying to play the way we want to play.”
Harvard is coming into Saturday’s matchup having won or tied its last eight games, including a 2-1 triumph over Princeton last Saturday.
Dartmouth, on the other hand, is riding a four-game losing streak, coming off a heartbreaker to Columbia in which the squad gave up two goals in the final seven minutes en route to a 2-1 loss.
Despite its record, the Big Green has had some close matches, including a 2-0 defeat to then-16th ranked Boston University, holding the Terriers scoreless for 80 minutes. The Crimson players acknowledge that despite Dartmouth’s poor record, the team cannot be taken lightly.
“They are very good. They played BU, who is one of the best teams in country, neck-and-neck,” Leone said. “They’re always a tough opponent. It’s going to be an excellent game.”
Dartmouth’s offense has struggled this year, netting only seven goals so far, including three from freshman Tasha Wilkins’ three.
Defensively, the Big Green has been solid, allowing 1.64 goals per game, but in the defensively-oriented Ivies, that still is not in the top half of the league.
Dartmouth co-captain Erin Fleischli anchors the Dartmouth back line, while Tatiana Saunders and Colleen Hogan have split time in net.
Harvard co-captain Melanie Baskind, with seven goals and a league-leading eight assists, will lead the attack in Saturday’s game. Freshman Meg Casscells-Hamby and sophomore Elizabeth Weisman are also threats to score, with five and four goals, respectively.
“It’s really going to be about each team trying to establish what they want to do,” Leone said. “And our thing is obviously keeping the ball and attacking from that standpoint.”
Passions will run high on senior day, and the match is bound to be a tightly contested one.