Twelve games into the season, the upstart freshman duo of Murphy Agnew and Lauren Raimondo had shown signs of budding chemistry on the front line, but had yet to link up for a goal. That all changed on Saturday, when the Harvard women’s soccer team traveled to Cornell for a conference showdown.
In the 55th minute, with the score at 2-1 in favor of the Crimson and the game still very much up for grabs, Agnew lobbed the ball over the defense to Raimondo, who made it a two-goal cushion with a bottom-corner finish past Big Red junior goalkeeper Meghan Kennedy. The vital goal was Raimondo’s first career tally.
The goal proved to be more than enough, as Harvard (7-5, 1-2 Ivy League) downed Cornell (2-5-2, 0-2-1) for its first Ivy League victory. The game, which finished with a final score of 3-1, saw two players scoring their first career goals and the Crimson also setting a new season-high for shots with 18. The strong performance comes as a much-needed improvement after last weekend’s 3-0 loss at Yale, especially considering the absence of team co-captains Marie Becker and Caroline Chagares due to injury.
“I was really impressed with the way that we approached the game, and we competed from the first minute,” coach Chris Hamblin said.
Harvard came into Ithaca, N.Y., with history on its side. The Crimson is unbeaten against the Big Red in its series history, a record that dates back to 1993. The strong opening half made it clear that Harvard wasn’t giving up that perfect record without a fight.
The Crimson found the back of the net in just the seventh minute, when Niki Young deflected a corner from fellow junior midfielder Leah Mohammadi. The goal was the first of Young’s career, coming in her first Ivy League start.
“We’re trying to get on the end of some of the opportunities we’ve been having, and get on the board,” Chagares said. “It’s awesome that we’re getting [new] people in the box score.”
With the assist, Mohammadi also pushed her team-best points total on the season to 10.
“We’ve been thrilled with [Mohammadi’s] presence on both sides of the ball, both offensively and defensively,” Hamblin said. “It’s really difficult to play against her.”
Harvard’s offense continued to pepper Cornell with shots—the first half alone saw 13 shots for the Crimson, and only three for its opponents. But just five minutes after Young’s goal, the Big Red equalized.
Cornell junior defender Grace Keller caused a turnover by Harvard’s defensive line, and senior forward Paige DeLoach found herself open 15 yards from goal. DeLoach, who was the recipient of the Big Red’s Best Attacking Player award last season, made no mistake with the opportunity and scored after collecting the rebound from an errant initial shot.
The game continued with no further scoring for over 20 minutes. The Crimson had several good looks at Kennedy, including a one-on-one attempt by Agnew. Though she didn’t score, Agnew found redemption in the 38th minute, setting up senior midfielder Dani Stollar for a close-range strike. Stollar’s goal would stand as the game winner.
The second half had a more evenly-matched shot total, with five for Harvard and seven for the Big Red, but Cornell was unable to convert on any chances. Instead, the Crimson extended its lead in the 55th minute through Raimondo.
“The fact that [Raimondo] was able to score against Cornell, give us that little bumper, was great,” Hamblin said.
Seven minutes later, DeLoach was fouled inside Harvard’s box, and the Big Red was handed a chance to close the gap. However, Crimson sophomore goalie Kat Hess didn’t flinch, stopping Cornell freshman midfielder Shelby Wray on the penalty kick.
“If they convert that penalty kick, the last 10 to 12 minutes [get] pretty hectic and dangerous,” Hamblin said. “We’re really glad that [Hess] could come up with the stop and allow us to keep that buffer.”
The win increased Harvard’s series record against the Big Red to 19-0-5, and was the team’s third road victory this year. More than the big-picture stats, though, the Crimson was happy with its offensive performance and its goalies’ composure. As has been the norm this season, Hess and junior Danielle Etzel split time between the posts, combining for four saves.
“They had a few very talented forwards,” Chagares said. “So we wanted to make sure to try to stop them, and our defense and our goalies did a great job.”
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