On a Saturday when four Harvard teams lost games at Princeton, the Crimson women’s soccer team was no exception, falling to the Tigers at Roberts Stadium. The 3-1 defeat marked Harvard’s first loss in nearly a month, as the Crimson rebounded from its Sept. 21 loss to Penn by going 4-0-2 and holding its opponents to a goal or less in each outing.
With the loss, the Crimson (7-4-3, 2-2-1 Ivy) fell eight points back of the Ancient Eight-leading Princeton (10-3-1, 5-0) with only two conference games remaining, putting an end to Harvard’s hopes of repeating as Ivy champions. The Tigers remained three points ahead of Dartmouth and Penn, which are tied for second with 12 points apiece.
“There’s obviously a lot of disappointment in that the game...took us out of contention for the championship,” junior co-captain Peyton Johnson said. “However, after the game nobody was down, and we shouldn’t have been because we came to play and played our hardest out there. It’s disappointing and tough, but nothing that we could be regretful about.”
Against Princeton, the Crimson defense held steady for the first 45 minutes, marking the fourth straight game that Harvard held its opponent without a goal in the first period. But the Crimson offense could not score either, and the teams entered halftime 0-0.
“We had some really good opportunities in the first half that we didn’t capitalize on,” Harvard coach Ray Leone said. “During the second half it was a battle and a really good game all the way through. There were very little adjustments; they just kept doing what they were doing the entire time. I have to tip my hat off to them. They just played a bit better than us, and I have to give them all the credit.”
Princeton senior midfielder Caitlin Blosser started the scoring with a header off a corner kick in the 61st minute. The Crimson responded with a goal from freshman forward Lauren Varela, her second of the season, in the 70th minute to tie up the contest.
But a pair of Tiger goals 90 seconds apart put the game out of reach as Princeton scored in the 80th and 81st minutes. The Tigers scored all three of their goals off of set pieces—one off a corner kick, one on a free kick, and one off of a throw-in.
“We definitely responded well to their first goal,” Johnson said. “We didn’t come out playing as hard as we wanted in the beginning, but we continued to fight, which was great. Unfortunately, Princeton took advantage of their moments in the second half, which they hadn’t in the first, and scored a couple of goals we weren’t able to respond to.”
Although before Saturday’s game Harvard still had a chance to win the Ivy League, Leone said that earlier performances in Ancient Eight play decided the championship—not just Saturday’s.
“It was just one game [Saturday] night,” Leone said. “We didn’t lose the Ivy League [against Princeton]. We needed to do better in previous games so that if we lost last night it wouldn’t have been the end. You can look at [Saturday] night and say that was it, but we put ourselves in a place where we had no room for error. There aren’t a lot of second chances in this league.”
According to Johnson, the Crimson will refuse to let Saturday’s loss change its perspective on the rest of the season.
“I think that not too much changes about our situation and how we approach the next few games,” Johnson said. “We always have individual goals for games and that won’t change [after Princeton]. This will help us for the spring, it will help us for next year, and we are not going to stop fighting. Every game matters, and we are going to come out like it’s for the Ivy League title.”