Take out your list of the top 20 women's soccer teams in New England. (What do you mean, you don't have one!) Focus on the top of the paper. That's right, where it says 1: Brown, 2: Harvard. Now, take out your 89-cent red felt-tip pen and reverse the order of the two top teams.
You see, the Harvard women's soccer team blanked Brown 2-0 yesterday behind Soldiers Field and established their incontrovertible claim to the head honcho spot in New England women's soccer.
The Crimson women beat Brown on the field as well as on the scoreboard. They did start both halves somewhat hesitantly, getting beaten to the ball and kicking nervous, misdirected passes when they did reach it, but after a few minutes of both stanzas they settled down and began to control the play.
The fullbacks, Wendy Sands and Stefi Baum, in particular, contained the Brown strikers when they threatened early in the halves. They avoided overcommitting themselves and stepped in aggressively to boom the ball clear when passes approached the penalty area. On one of the few occasions when Brown did have a legitimate scoring chance, midway through the first half, Sands calmly blocked a headed ball on the line, then catapulted it halfway toward midfield.
The Crimson offense sputtered a little more than usual, in part because the halfbacks had trouble keeping the ball in the Brown end for long periods of pressure. When long passes to the ever-eager Sue St. Louis, or back striker Ellen Hart, did find their way deep into the Brown end, at least in the first half, the speed of the Brown left-fullback, Melissa Ching, and the calm assurance of goalie Tina Neal--who ventured from the line to corral many a ball near the edge of the penalty area--kept the Crimson at bay. She fielded long fly ball boots from the foot of Wendy Sands with particular aplomb.
Harvard's best chance of the first half came on a Kathy Batter penalty kick after a Brown handball with 34 minutes gone on the clock. Batter's shot went on the ground wide of the left post.
Ironically, 12 minutes into the second half it was a Tina Neal mistake that gave the Crimson their first goal. A cross from right wing Julie Brynteson found its way into, and then out of, Neal's cradling arms and then Johnny-on-the spot. Sue St. Louis, calmly placed the baby into the left corner of the net.
St. Louis and left wing Cat Ferrante then began to slice through the Brown defense with more frequency, running onto long passes from each other that foreshadowed the second coming of a goal. St. Louis also tallied this one, pouncing on a looping ball that handcuffed Brown's squat center fullback Darcy Fernald, and then, as before, quickly and quietly putting the ball through the posts.
Having beaten Brown this early in the season to go 4-0, the question for the women's soccer team becomes, "What will they do for an encore?" Asked this after the game yesterday coach Bob Scalise said, "Keep on getting better." If they do, perhaps you should take out your list of the top 20 college teams in New England, regardless of sex. Let's see, who used to be number 20?
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