STORES. Conn.--The University women's soccer team owned the first half of yesterday's game. The Huskies also seemed to own the referees at times. And in the end, they owned two goals to Harvard's one.
The 2-1 loss was the Crimson's first since its 4-3 defeat at the hands of UMass last season, culminating an undefeated string which spanned 12 games.
Yesterday's game could have been a super one. Harvard entered with a sparkling 6-0 record, the number one ranked team in New England. UConn sported a record of 8-2-1, good enough for fifth in the rankings. For the Crimson, it proved anything but super.
Harvard's main strength throughout the season so far has been its aggressiveness. But in this game, referees Will Duchesneau and Tom Kolodziej wouldn't let the team play soccer, calling every bump and brush a trip or a charge.
The Crimson booters began shying away from the aggressive tackling and forceful play which normally separates them from the other team. And to add to the numerous penalty infractions, the refs missed hand balls and messed up out-of-bounds calls.
"The main problem with the officiating was that it was inconsistent, and it threw off our game," Crimson coach Bob Scalise said afterward. "We couldn't tell what would or wouldn't be called."
UConn also fell victim to the referees' whistle, and the final totals showed 23 fouls on each team. However, numbers can always deceive and the actual advantage easily belonged to the Huskies.
The home team practically took karate lessons in Harvard's penalty area, with direct and indirect kicks flying all over the place. But most of Harvard's free kicks were from its own defensive zone.
All of this is not to take anything away from the Huskies. They are a well-balanced, aggressive, skilled team. They were psyched, and they played their hearts out in what was probably their best game of the year. They beat the Crimson to the ball, they stopped Harvard's break-outs and they constantly pushed the ball into their offensive zone. But...
UConn scored its first goal on--believe it or not--an indirect kick by junior midfielder Felice Duffy at 17:00 of the first half, from, of course, inside the penalty area.
At 38:13, on yet another indirect kick in the penalty area, referee dealt the Crimson a yellow card which typified the squad's frustrations on the day.
Crimson sophomore Kelly Gately, in attempting to position her teammates, stood within ten yards of the ball that a UConn player waited to kick. The whistle blew, the yellow card came out, charing Gately with encroachment, and the Harvard bench was delivered a team warning, which meant that the next player in Crimson to see yellow would be out of the game.
The first half ended with UConn still holding its 1-0 lead, but to start half number two, the Crimson came out hopping. And it paid off, as Laurie Gregg took a Laura Mayer cross and squirted it past Husky goalkeeper Mary Lou Breen at 3:13, to tie the score at one.
For the next 38 minutes the two teams battled up and down the field, and it looked as if there might be overtime. No way, said UConn midfielder Moira Buckley, picking up a loose ball after a scramble in front and driving it past Crimson keeper Ann Diamond at 41:45 to ice it for UConn, 2-1.