After claiming two big wins on the road against Colgate and Quinnipiac, the Harvard women’s soccer team returns home in hopes of snatching another convincing victory, this time against local rival No. 5 Boston College.
When the Crimson (3-1-1) and the Eagles (5-0-2) face off on Saturday evening at Soldiers Field Soccer Stadium, the first meeting between these two programs in nearly three years, both teams will be playing for not just an early season victory against a top-tier opponent but also for bragging rights in one of the most hotly contested local rivalries.
“We definitely have a lot of respect for them as a team and as a program,” sophomore goalkeeper Bethany Kanten said.
“BC is a really strong team,” junior co-captain Peyton Johnson added. “Their program has done really well in the past so we welcome them as a challenge. We feel that we have nothing to lose but a lot to prove, so it should be a fun game.”
Harvard controls the all-time series against BC, leading 19-11-4 in 34 meetings. The Eagles, however, have won the last two recent meetings. In 2009, the Crimson and BC met in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, and the Eagles emerged victorious, 1-0, after an early second half goal. Earlier in the 2009 season, BC trounced Harvard, 4-1, dominating from start to finish.
But for this year’s Crimson squad, the memories of the program’s past struggles against the Eagles are the furthest thing on their minds.
“Right now we don’t have much institutional memory against BC,” Johnson said. “We are a pretty young team and for us each year is different, so we are looking forward to showing what we have this year.”
Harvard comes into this contest fresh off a commanding 3-0 victory over Quinnipiac on Wednesday. In its last two games against the Bobcats and Raiders, the Crimson was able to capitalize on early scoring opportunities and maintain possession of the ball in order to control the game.
To come out on top against a formidable Eagles team, Harvard will have to replicate its style of play from the last two victories, by finding its offensive rhythm early in the game and by keeping BC without the ball and as far away from the penalty box as possible.
Another important factor in Harvard’s success so far this season has been its strength in the net. In Wednesday’s game against Quinnipiac, sophomore goalkeepers Kanten and Cheta Emba combined for a shutout on the road.
So far this season, Kanten has registered 24 saves while allowing just six goals, good enough for an 80 percent save rate.
The Eagles visit the Crimson having opened this year’s season undefeated with six victories and two ties. BC has outscored its opponents, 18-7, and outshot them by a stunning margin of 127 to 63.
In the Eagles’ most recent game against No. 8 UCF, both teams battled to a 1-1 draw after two overtime periods. Leading BC in that match and so far this season is senior midfielder Kristen Mewis.
With her goal against UCF, Mewis extended her scoring streak to seven consecutive games while also maintaining the distinction of having scored a goal or delivered an assist in every game this season for the Eagles.
A deciding factor in this weekend’s contest will be how well the Crimson back line can contain the dynamism and play-making abilities of Mewis and the rest of the BC offense.
And with its first Ivy matchup of the season taking place on Sept. 21 at Penn, Harvard will look to use the game against the Eagles as its final tuneup before the start of conference play.
“The main thing that we are looking for [against BC] is to maintain a strong mentality going into next week’s game. That’s when our important games, our Ivy games, start for us,” Kanten said. “So the questions that we are going to have for ourselves moving forward are: Can we finish strong as a team? Can we stay positive? And can [we] continue to play our style and not allow other teams to control the game?”
—Staff writer Oluwatoni A. Campbell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.