Four years into a career that has seen her walk away with two Ivy League titles as part of what is quickly becoming a women’s soccer dynasty, senior Taryn Kurcz has had quite a few memorably moments. But all things considered, Monday night’s game, under the lights of the “Fall Fiesta,” might have been Kurcz’s best yet at Harvard.
Although taking up a new role this season in the midfield, the Crimson senior, listed on the roster as a defender, finished Monday night’s game against local rivals Boston University having done pretty much all anyone could ask for.
Kurcz, who is also a Crimson sports executive, quickly embraced her new offensive role and displayed her prowess as an aerial threat by notching two goals off headers.
With Monday’s performance at Soldiers Field Soccer Stadium, Kurcz showed why she and her teammates are still the team to beat in the Ivy League as they defend their Ancient Eight title with the start of conference play later this month.
“I think we’re just a really resilient team and that it doesn’t matter who the team is,” Kurcz said. “If we’re down we’re not going to back down and we’re going to keep on proceeding, keep on playing our game.”
Though Harvard (1-0-1) was only able to tie a spirited Terriers (3-2-1) team, 2-2, the Crimson nonetheless maintained its unbeaten streak and ended a four-game losing streak against Boston University, the last loss to its local rivals coming in the form of a 0-3 loss in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
In the fifth minute of play, working off a long throw by senior midfielder and roommate Aisha Price, Kurcz jostled for position in front of net and, despite being marked closely by two BU defenders, fired a powerful header toward goal and over the head of the Terriers’ helpless goalkeeper.
With the goal, Kurcz notched her first goal of the season and just her second career goal for Harvard, giving the Crimson the early 1-0 lead.
In the second half, with 25 minutes left in regulation and Harvard staring down a possible fifth consecutive loss to the Terriers, Kurcz’ aerial threat once again proved instrumental for the Crimson as she connected off a beautiful set-piece free kick from junior co-captain Peyton Johnson and headed the ball into the back of the net.
With the match in extra time and two goals already to her name, Kurcz was once again at the center of the Crimson attack in the final third. In the 96th minute, Kurcz’s heading ability was once again in full display as a header almost gave her a hat-trick and nearly gifted Harvard with a golden goal victory.
In all, Kurcz’ brace and the final scoring opportunity in the dying minutes of the match capped a prolific outing for the veteran in which she quickly embraced her new role in the midfield and put on display her powerful header.
Kurcz, whose career has been marred by injuries, is now entering into her final year with the Crimson, and her constant presence has garnered nothing but respect from her fellow teammates for her versatility and energy on the field.
“Taryn is like a little bolt of lightning wherever you put her,” Johnson said. “She’s given us a spark in defense and now this season she’s given us a spark in the midfield. She’s always going to be an asset to us wherever we put her on the field.”
Kurcz spent much of the off-season in California preparing mentally and physically for the adjustment needed in shifting her role to a more offensive-minded position. Given the positive results in just the second game of the season, it looks as if that work has paid off.
“Putting her in the midfield against BU really played into the really competitive fire we were looking to create for that game,” Johnson said. “I think her playing in a central role during the game really helped that out, and I imagine that won’t stop as we move forward into the season.”
—Staff writer Oluwatoni A. Campbell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.