Young Stars Lead Crimson to Ivy Title
After 17 regular season games, 13 league goals, and 663 minutes of conference play, the Harvard women’s soccer team captured its third Ivy League championship in four years.
With a 1-0 win at Columbia (6-10-1, 3-3-1 Ivy) Saturday evening, the Crimson (12-4-1, 6-0-1) took sole ownership of the Ancient Eight trophy. A strong Penn squad had defeated Princeton beforehand and was hoping for Harvard to slip up—which would have allowed the Quakers to claim a share of the top spot—but Crimson rookie Lauren Urke’s goal in the 21st minute was enough to guarantee her squad the victory and the outright Ivy title.
“It’s an amazing feeling [to win the championship],” Urke said. “I’m so proud of every single person on our team and of the teamwork that we put together to win this title because we couldn’t have done it without every single person’s effort.”
Apart from looking for the upset, the Lions had another reason to come out strong—senior forward Ashlin Yahr was one goal away from tying the program’s all-time career goals record of 30. But opposing freshman goalkeeper Bethany Kanten, who has starred all season in between the Crimson posts, posted a clean sheet and denied Yahr from reaching the milestone on Columbia’s Senior Day.
“One of their forwards was trying to break a school record, so it was a very big game for both of us,” co-captain defender Lindsey Kowal said. “The game meant so much for both teams, and I’m glad we came out on top.”
Kanten finished the day with two saves, while her counterpart, Lillian Klein, had a slightly busier day in net, saving four of the Crimson’s six shots on goal. The Lions’ squad was credited for a save in the 32nd minute, when a shot by Urke threatened to sneak past her.
Back-and-forth play characterized the evening contest, with both teams finishing with 10 shots each.
Columbia looked dangerous at first, applying pressure on the Harvard back line with two early corner kicks and three shots, one of which came from Yahr that flew wide at 19:38.
“Columbia came out really strong, they were fighting really hard, and they played a good game,” Urke said. “We knew that our whole team would have to come out fighting and give an extra effort to win the game, and I think that’s exactly what we did.”
Urke quelled the Lions’ offensive efforts with her goal a minute later. Rookie Meg Casscells-Hamby, who finished the regular season second on the team with 14 points, dribbled into the box from the right and saw Urke making a late run toward the goal on the other side. Casscells-Hamby slipped a pass through several defenders onto the right foot of the Harvard defender, who put away a shot from 15 yards out to score the winning tally.
“We knew that after one goal, we couldn’t stop; we couldn’t be down; we couldn’t try to defend the rest of the game,” Urke said. “We needed more in order to be confident that we could win the game.”
Urke followed up the score with two more shots on goal in the ensuing 12 minutes. Yahr forced Kanten to come up with a save at 36:14, and the Columbia senior had a follow-up effort that flew high two seconds later.
Lions teammate Liz Wicks hit the post near the end of the half, nearly grabbing the equalizer to reenergize the home side.
The second half began like the first, with Columbia applying pressure from the start. But Harvard settled down and did not allow the Lions to get a shot off after the 59th minute until five minutes before the clock ran out, when the Lion star Yahr’s header flew high.
Casscells-Hamby forced Klein to make a save at 69:20, marking the last time the Crimson threatened.
When the referee blew the final whistle, the Harvard women came together and celebrated with the numerous alumni who attended the night game.
“It was a great celebration,” Kowal said. “We’re just so glad that we came out on top. Our goal was to be champions—we wanted nothing less. We wanted to be greedy, and we wanted the whole thing.”
—Staff writer Brian A. Campos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.