After a lopsided 8-1 loss to crosstown rival Boston College last Saturday, the Harvard women’s soccer team hits the road this weekend looking to set its season back on track.
The Crimson (3-2-1) opens Ivy League play on Friday, when they travel down to the University of Pennsylvania (3-3-0) to battle the Quakers in front of their home crowd on Rhodes Field.
Both teams have had successful starts to their 2012 campaigns and will be looking for a key win against an Ancient Eight rival.
“It’s extremely important to bounce back [after last week’s game against BC],” freshman Emily Mosbacher said. “It was a tough loss, but it’s made us stronger as a team for it. We were able to learn a lot about our playing style, what works and what doesn’t.”
Going into Friday’s game, the two teams already have a long history. Last season, Harvard handed the Quakers one of their only two losses, subsequently snatching its tenth Ivy League title.
The Crimson leads the all-time overall contest, 16-5-2, and has won two of the last five meetings between the teams, with one of those wins coming in the conference season opener last year.
Entering this match, Harvard is stressing the effect that a win will have on the rest of its season.
“It’s definitely a big game,” senior Aisha Price said. “We’ve talked a lot about how starting on Friday, it’s a new season, it’s the Ivy League season. We want to come out and start with a bang, but at the same time we’re trying to take it one game at a time and go as hard as we can for every game.”
Despite the loss to the Eagles last weekend, the Crimson has had a successful start to its campaign, grabbing two vital wins on the road against Colgate and Quinnipiac.
Penn is currently coming off a double-overtime win over Sacramento State, snapping a three game mini-slide that saw the Quakers outscored, 4-0.
Offensively, Harvard has shown an array of options, with nine different players finding the back of the net and the offense averaging two goals a game. Senior Taryn Kurcz, who is also a Crimson sports editor, currently leads the Crimson with three goals, while junior co-captain Peyton Johnson has contributed one goal and four assists. Junior Elizabeth Weisman has also tallied two goals and one assist.
The team’s first years have proved their mettle thus far this season. Mosbacher and classmates midfielder Haley Washburn and forward Lauren Varela have each chipped in a goal for Harvard this season.
Heading into Friday’s contest, Harvard has the advantage in shots per game, averaging 16.2 to Penn’s 13.5.The Crimson’s defense has also been steady thus far this season, anchored by sophomore Bethany Kanten in the net. Kanten has started in all six games, posting 28 saves, a 71.8 save percentage, and a 2.11 goals-against average.
Kanten is set to face a well-balanced Quaker offense. Each of Penn’s seven goals this season have come from different players.
Freshman Erin Mikolai and juniors Kerry Scalora and Brianna Rano have each scored game-winning goals. Scalora has also tallied an assist on the season, and leads Penn in shots, with 16.
On defense for the Quakers, senior Sarah Banks has played every minute in goal, posting 20 saves, a 74.1 save percentage, and a 1.14 goals-against average.
Harvard thus far has been undefeated on the road, outscoring its opponents, 8-1, with victories at Massachusetts, Colgate, and Quinnipiac. Penn has gone 2-1, playing in front of its home crowd at Rhodes Field.
Both teams have struggled with getting hot early in the game.
With the Crimson scoring nine of its 12 goals in the second half and the Quakers only seeing one of its seven goals come during the first period, Harvard and Penn will both be seeking score and gain momentum early.
“Penn is a really strong team, especially to have to play away,” Mosbacher said. “Knowing that, we’re ready for whatever they bring.”