After a close loss to Penn in its first conference game last week, Harvard (3-3-2, 0-1 Ivy) is looking to rebound on Saturday when it faces rival Yale (5-4, 0-1 Ivy) at Soldiers Field Soccer/Lacrosse Stadium at 12:00 p.m.
Harvard is looking to pick up its first win in three games, coming off of a Wednesday 0-0 tie with Central Connecticut State University. On Saturday, the Crimson goes for its first home win of the season after losing and drawing two matches at Soldiers Field Stadium thus far.
In preparation for this weekend, Harvard has been practicing consistency in front of the goal. In its six games this season, the Crimson has struggled to capitalize on goal scoring opportunities, averaging 1.5 goals per game on 17 shots.
“We need to focus on working together,” sophomore midfielder Laura Aguilar said. “We’ve been practicing a lot on finishing in front of the goal, and that’s going to come with team-work and playing for each other.”
Although, the Bulldogs are coming off a 2-1 overtime loss to Princeton, in which a Yale defender unintentionally scored a winning own-goal for the Tigers, the Bulldogs nonetheless have taken advantage of goal-scoring opportunities this season, averaging 2.1 goals per game on 12 shots. Yale’s offensive prowess has come from a number of players, most notably senior midfielder Kristen Forster, who leads the team with five goals.
Harvard is looking to bring intensity and energy to the game on Saturday. This season, the Crimson has been outscored 8-3 in first halves, so the team hopes to start strong and put the game away early.
“We’re not really concerned with what Yale does,” sophomore midfielder Meg Casscells-Hambry said. “We’re just thinking about how we are going to play. We’ve been focusing on getting into a grove and really keeping our energy up.”
With the bulk of the conference schedule left to play, Harvard needs a win against the Bulldogs to gain momentum going into the remainder of the season. Last weekend, the Crimson remained competitive with Penn until the final moments of the game, when Quaker defender Kaitlyn Moore netted a shot off of a corner kick with less than four seconds on the clock. Though the loss was the first for Harvard in Ivy-League play since 2010, the team remains unfazed.
“We’re a very resilient team,” Aguilar said. “We lost to Penn last weekend, but we’re not dwelling on that fact. We’re looking forward to our next challenge.”
The Crimson is confident about its performance this season, despite having failed to pick up a win in the last three games.
“We did well against Penn and CCSU,” Casscells-Hambry said. “We had a bunch of shots and our energy was really good.”
This season, Harvard has been strong defensively. With the exception of an 8-1 loss against Boston College earlier this month, the Crimson has only allowed five goals in seven games. A major contributor to this effort has been sophomore goalkeeper Bethany Kanten. Kanten owns a 76 percent save rate and shutouts against both Massachusetts and CCSU.
Defensively, the Bulldogs have allowed 11 goals this season, and have relied on three different goalkeepers. Freshman Rachel Ames has received the most playing time of the trio, and she holds the lowest goals against average at .97 goals per game.
Since 2008, Harvard has been a powerhouse in the Ivy League, winning championships in 2008, 2009, and 2011. In the all-time series against Yale, the Crimson hold a 28-8-1 record, winning in their last four meetings. Despite its historical dominance of the Bulldogs, Harvard is holding nothing back in preparing for Saturday.
“We have had a lot of good practices this week, and I think that we have figured out a really good lineup,” Casscells-Hambry said. “Going in, we’re going to come in really strong. We’re really excited for the game.”
Veterans on the team remember last year’s hard-fought victory in the 93rd minute at New Haven, and they know that the Bulldogs will be competitive. Especially in light of last weekend’s loss to Penn, the Crimson knows that it has limited chances to get back on track.
“We only get to play each team once during the season,” Aguilar said. “This season the Ivy League is seven games and so each one obviously matters a lot. We treat every game like a championship game.”