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The weather in Ithaca, N.Y., last Saturday was forboding for the Harvard women's soccer team.
The bitter cold reflected Harvard's lackluster play.
The driving wind symbolized the demise of the Crimson's Ivy League title ambitions.
And Harvard's hope for an Ancient Eight title fell to pieces with a heartbreaking 2-1 loss to Cornell (9-1-1, 4-0-0 Ivy). Laurie Uustal scored the lone goal for Harvard.
The Crimson (5-4-1, 2-2-0 Ivy) simply did not play at the same level as it had over the last four games.
In those games, Harvard recorded victories over ninth-ranked Massachusetts, Holy Cross and Pennsylvania, losing only to second-ranked Connecticut. The possibility of taking the Ivy title seemed very real.
But in the wind and cold of upstate New York, against the league-leading Big Red squad, Harvard came unglued.
"It was a really frustrating game," Co-Captain Amy Weinstein said. "If we had played like we did against Massachusetts and Connecticut, we would have won easily."
Credit some of the disorientation to the Cornell players. Their aggressive double-teaming defense forced Harvard to make mistakes it couldn't afford to make.
But if Harvard had played its normal game, the outcome would have been different.
"We're disappointed in how we played as a team. Cornell is a good team having a great year, but we could have won," Harvard Coach Tim Wheaton said.
"It's one thing to lose a game when you've done everything you could, but to lose the game by playing badly, that hurts," Weinstein said.
The weather was a significant factor in the outcome. Cornell opened with the wind at its backs, which favored its long-ball style of play.
Cornell absolutely dominated the first half. The Big Red owned the midfield and applied bonecrushing pressure to the Crimson defense.
With the wind in its face, the Crimson was unable to clear the ball.
Crimson goalie Brooke Donahoe held the Big Red scoreless as long as she could, but against such overwhelming pressure, a goal was inevitable. Cornell finally scored late in the first half.
With the wind against the Big Red, the second half was a different story. The Crimson came out strong and tied the game quickly on Uustal's tap-in off Co-Captain Robin Johnston's corner kick.
The game raged fierce until Cornell got a big break with 10 minutes left in the game.
An accidental handball in the goal box gave Cornell a penalty kick, which it converted easily to pick up the victory.
The loss left Harvard's players stunned and angry.
"We have the ability to beat them," Weinstein said. "We beat ourselves. They did not beat us."
Wheaton sounded a note of revenge.
"We're going to show that we can beat anybody," Wheaton said. "We may be out of the Ivy race, but we are still spoilers."
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