Johnson Free Kick Powers Harvard to Ivy League Title
Every championship team needs players who can make the big plays when it counts the most. Adam Vinatieri’s last-second field goals for the Patriots, Dirk Nowitzki’s buzzer-beating jumpers for the Mavericks, and most recently, David Freese’s home runs to help the Cardinals win the World Series.
For its game against Dartmouth last Saturday, the Harvard women’s soccer team looked to sophomore midfielder Peyton Johnson to provide the late game heroics.
With 10 seconds remaining in a 1-1 game, Johnson drilled a 28-yard free kick that beat the wall and the goalkeeper, giving the Crimson the 2-1 win.
The result, along with Penn and Brown’s 0-0 tie later in the day, assures Harvard at least a share of the Ivy League title and a place in the 2011 NCAA tournament.
For Johnson, winning the Ancient Eight crown, something the Crimson did not do last season, has always been the goal.
“All the freshmen and sophomores look longingly at the upperclassmen’s rings from their freshman or sophomore years,” Johnson said. “We have always wanted one of our own. This season has been a great one, and to cap it off with getting a ring is huge.”
Before Harvard’s win Saturday, the standings at the top of the Ivy League were tight. With the Quakers and Bulldogs nipping at its heels, the team knew how crucial this game would prove for its season.
“The Ivy League is interesting because we do not have a [conference] tournament, so each game is like a playoff game,” co-captain Lindsey Kowal said. “We knew we needed a win because Penn was right behind us by one point. We had no room for error.”
Under steady rain, the game went into halftime level and looked destined for overtime before a Big Green foul 10 yards outside the box set up Johnson’s free kick.
The midfielder guided the ball over the wall of Dartmouth defenders and past diving freshman goalkeeper Tatiana Saunders, a member of England’s U-19 National Team who has never lost a game in international competition.
“[Saunders’ record] just shows that regardless of who she is going up against, Peyton can deliver,” Kowal said.
As the ball passed Saunders, a wave of emotion hit Johnson.
“It was almost disbelief,” the sophomore said. “I remember seeing the net ripple, and then turning around and freaking out. I don’t think I processed the gravity of it.”
This last-second goal was not Johnson’s first game-winner of the season. The sophomore fired a penalty kick past Yale in overtime earlier this month to gain another crucial league win.
But Johnson was quick to credit her teammates for those successes.