This Thursday, for the first time since winning the Ivy League Championship in November, the Harvard women’s soccer team will return to Jordan Field to play cross-town rival Boston College. Days later, the Crimson will travel to Syracuse to challenge the Orange on Sunday.
“BC and Syracuse are both great programs in the ACC,” co-captain Caroline Chagares said. “We are looking forward to using them as a challenge and opportunity to get better and to see where we are.”
Coming off an exciting double overtime win against St. John’s to win the CCSU tournament, Harvard (3-1) looks to continue building momentum before entering Ivy League play.
Harvard and Boston College last faced off exactly one year ago, when the Eagles (4-2) secured a commanding 3-0 victory. However, the Crimson is not the same team it was a year ago. The graduation of standout forward Midge Purce, who has since been called up to play for the U.S. Women’s National Team, leaves an offensive void for Harvard to fill.
“After losing a large and talented senior class, all of the returning and new players have had to step up,” Chagares said. “These games are a great opportunity to build our team chemistry and to get used to playing with each other.”
Strong play from both freshmen and upperclassmen has helped to fill the the gap left the senior class. Junior midfielder Leah Mohammadi already has two goals on the season, both game-winners, and freshman forward Murphy Agnew tallied her first score against Central Connecticut State in the first game of the CCSU tournament.
“Coming into the season we knew we would have a new-look team with a lot of players who graduated, freshman coming into the mix,” head coach Chris Hamblin said. “One of our goals this preseason was to come together and create that chemistry which is really important to being successful and our upperclassmen did a really good job of welcoming the freshmen.”
Boston College has also had a successful season thus far, most recently earning a narrow 2-1 victory against Northeastern, the only team to which the Crimson has fallen this season. Sophomore forward Jenna Bike leads the Eagles offensively, racking up four goals in just six games this season. BC’s other threat comes in the form of freshman forward Sam Coffey, who has two goals and a team-leading four assists on the season.
Bike and Coffey will provide a good challenge for Harvard’s defense, which has been consistently strong this season, allowing just two goals and posting three shutouts.
Both Hamblin and assistant coach Mike Calise played for the Boston College men’s soccer team all four years as undergraduates, graduating from BC in 2001 and 1997 respectively. Hamblin then went on to serve as associate head coach of the Eagles’ women’s soccer team from 2001 through 2009.
Despite this familiarity, Harvard will prepare for this game as it would for any other. “We want to compete, we want to win, we want to put on our best performance,” Hamblin said. “It’s going to be a good opportunity for us to really see where we’re at.”
Sunday’s game against Syracuse will also serve as good test for the Crimson, as the two teams have not faced each other in 12 years, when Harvard came away with a narrow 1-0 win.
The Orange (4-1-1) has gotten off to a hot start this season, recording over ten shots in five of its six games, as well as posting three shutouts. Sophomore forward Sydney Brackett and freshman midfielder Kate Donovan lead Syracuse with four and three goals respectively, and senior goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan has put on an impressive showing with 18 saves on the season.
This recent success marks an improvement from last season, when the Orange finished with a 8-8-3 record and missed the ACC playoffs.
“Syracuse is a much improved team who has had a really good start to the year with some good results,” Hamblin said. “On the video we’ve seen they look really deep, and for us the game is all about getting ready for Ivy League competition and making sure that we’re making improvements along the way.”
—Staff writer Leena Ambady can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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