Defense wasn’t enough for the Harvard women’s soccer team, which dropped its final road game of the season, 2-0, on Sunday afternoon at Dartmouth.
Despite a strong defensive showing, the Crimson (8-5-3, 2-3-1 Ivy) was outmatched offensively, taking only one shot to Dartmouth’s 18. Big Green sophomore forward Tasha Wilkins led the way for Dartmouth (12-4, 5-1 Ivy), netting her fourth and fifth goals of the season.
“It was a tough loss, but I think that we really put it all out there,” junior forward Elizabeth Weisman said. “Dartmouth, on [Sunday], was a better team than we were.”
It was the Big Green’s Homecoming Weekend, and with the win Dartmouth moved into second place in the Ivy League behind Princeton with one game to play.
“Dartmouth had a lot to play for,” said junior co-captain and midfielder Peyton Johnson. “Unfortunately, we left it to ourselves to have to respond and not initiate the game tempo, which put us in a tough spot for the second half.”
The Big Green was frustrated in front of the goal throughout the first half and into the second, taking 12 shots before Wilkins found the back of the net in the 75th minute off a pass from senior midfielder Emma Brush.
Ten minutes later, Wilkins powered a long-range shot at sophomore goalkeeper Bethany Kanten, who could not hold on, and Dartmouth went up 2-0.
“It was pretty even throughout the entire game until the end,” Weisman said.
After opening the game with three shots in the first seven minutes, the Big Green was unable to get past the Harvard defense and the first half ended in a scoreless tie.
“In the second half, it became more fifty-fifty, and we still managed to fend them off,” Johnson said. “Bethany Kanten did good keeping the shutout for as long as she did. They had some really great chances, and she came up huge.”
Kanten played all 90 minutes in goal and notched seven saves, nearly doubling her season average of 3.6 saves per game. She also took the Crimson’s lone shot on goal, a free-kick in the 83rd minute that gave Dartmouth goalkeeper Tatiana Saunders her only save of the night.
“The first ten minutes, we didn’t set the tone like we had wanted,” Johnson said. “That left us in a tough position having to respond.”
Despite a slow start, possession remained fairly even throughout the rest of the game. And although it was outmatched in shots on goal, nine to one, Harvard’s offense created opportunities but failed to finish.
“We had a couple of opportunities, but we didn’t really settle the ball, so it was hard to get some of the chances that we usually get,” Weisman said. “Our offense was doing well, but we weren’t playing the way that we usually do.”
The Big Green held the edge in corner kicks, earning four to the Crimson’s two.
The loss marked only the second time this season that Harvard was shut out. Despite averaging 16 shots per game on the year, the Crimson’s offense failed to make opportunities late in the game and had no chances to come back from the 2-0 deficit.
In Dartmouth’s sixth shutout win of the season, the Big Green defense controlled the pace of the game and the space in front of its goal.
“We let Dartmouth set the rhythm of the game for quite a while, which definitely impacted the way we were able to attack,” Johnson said. “They didn’t allow us to play our own style of offense. They defended hard, and credit to their defense and goalkeeper for keeping us shut out.”
With the loss, Harvard fell to fourth place in the Ancient Eight. Despite having no chance to repeat as Ivy League champions, the team is looking forward to its final game of the season.
“It’s awesome that after a tough game like this one, we still have one more chance to show what we are made of going into the spring and next season,” Johnson said. “We will be practicing the mentality of coming out and making the other team respond to us instead of the other way around.”