Don't worry if you haven't noticed that the Harvard women's soccer team now boasts of a perfect 8-0 record. Many people, including some of the East's collegiate soccer coaches whose teams have not lost to the Crimson yet, haven't either.
But the booters, ranked third in New England and 11th in the nation again this week, plan to show their stuff against UConn, number one in the New England 11 and third nationwide, in the biggest game of the season to date at the Business School Field this afternoon at 3:30.
UConn has parlayed its superior skills and strong goaltending into a 9-1-1 season ledger, with the sole loss coming at the hands of top-ranked North Carolina two weeks ago. The talented set of Buckley twins, leading scorer Moira (13 goals and five assists as back striker) and center fullback Tara, lead Coach Len Tsantiris's 11.
In the nets, senior Mary Lou Bren has redefined the word "stingy," allowing just seven goals and recording six shutouts in 11 games.
The huskies, very skilled but slower than the Crimson, play a fluid 3-3-1-3 formation, basically a 3-3-4 (three fullbacks, three halfbacks and four forwards) with Buckley playing the fourth striker. But Tsantiris, who coached the E.O. Wilson High School team in Storrs, Ct., to 58 consecutive victories before taking over the helm at UConn, denies the use of any set strategy.
"You can't really describe our formation. That's our secret, no one can tell how we play," says the former Huskie and Connecticut Yankee fullback. "We play a simple game, the true game. And we work all the time."
To combat this amorphous attack, Harvard Coach Bob Scalise will have sweeper Deb Field cover one of the UConn forwards and institute the weak side shift which the squad used earlier in the season. In this defense, the two halfbacks nearest to the ball pressure the dribbler while the other two midfielders cover the other Huskie halfbacks.
But Crimson assistant coach Sussana Kaplan emphasizes that the booters will adhere to their basic strategy and play "our own game." Harvard's strength lies in its versatile all-around lineup with players in every position who can score. Every starting field player has tallied at least once this season.
If UConn relies on its previously parsimonious defensive alignment, look for freshman strikers Kelly Landry and Alicia Carrillo to spark the assault with their creative footwork. If the Huskies double team Landry and Carrillo as Brown did, speedy wing halfs Cat Ferrante and Laura Mayer should capitalize along the sidelines.
Harvard has also benefitted from using the backline on offense. By passing among themselves rather than automatically knocking the ball into the offensive zone, the fullbacks spread the opposing defense, allowing the Crimson forwards to regroup.
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