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With only a little over one minute remaining in the second overtime period, Harvard's Rachel Burke gave the Crimson stickwomen a 2-1 win over the eigth-ranked Connecticut Huskies yesterday in Storrs, Conn.
The Crimson (9-2-2 overall, 2-1-1 Ivy) had to dig and claw and hustle for its most satisfying victory of the season.
"This is a big, big win for us," Coach Sue Caples said. "They are an excellent team."
It was senior Loren Ambinder's pass which shot out of a mob of white and crimson jerseys, allowing the unattended Burke to beat Connecticut goaltender Yolanda Muntz and lift the elated Crimson to victory.
After nearly 90 minutes of end-to-end play in the brisk New England cold, it was a total team effort which edged the balanced Huskies (9-5-1).
The Crimson's first goal epitomizes the teamwork it took to beat the strong team in its own back-yard.
Ambinder picked a Connecticut middies pocket on the right side-line, beat another Huskie and fed Clark well into the offensive end. Clark then collected and crossed the ball, creating a corner opportunity.
On a textbook give-and-go off of the corner from Co-Captain Kristen Fowler--who had drawn the attention of the Huskies' defense with an earlier blast which had been called back--Francie Walton shuffled the ball to Becky Gaffney, who back-handed the ball into the net, giving the Crimson a 1-0 lead with two minutes remaining in the first half.
With a little more than 15 minutes left in the contest, Connecticut tied the game when Colleen Carney knocked a tough-angled shot passed an extended Lisa Yadao.
Hold that Huskie
The game's momentum clearly shifted into the Huskies' favor, but the Crimson was able to hold the surging squad at bay.
"We played for 90 minutes and didn't lose our intensity," Emily Buxton said.
"We were poised and kept stopping their attack," Clark said. "We were patient and it finally worked for us."
The defense staved off the potent Connecticut attack, disrupted the execution of its penalty corners and consistently cleared the ball effectively. Backs Amy Belisle, Tina Lawler, Buxton and Walton were all in top form.
"Their poor play in our end was due to the constant pressure we had on their forwards," Caples said. "Our corner defense really threw them off."
Harvard's Yadao was sharp in the twines for the Crimson, thwarting Connecticut's forwards time and time again.
"Their goaltender had some outstanding saves," Connecticut Coach Nancy Stevens said.
Not to be outdone, the forwards worked hard on both sides of the ball, testing Muntz with a number of well-placed shots and keeping the ball in the Huskies' zone.
"Loren, Rachel and Sarah [Downing] put a lot of pressure on them, making it hard for them to get the ball out," Clark said.
So what does this win mean?
"More than anything it was great for our moral," Clark said.
It also keeps the Crimson's post-season tournament hopes alive. Although things do not look good for an NCAA bid, the team may well get its third straight berth in the ECAC tournament.
The Crimson is still in the hunt for the Ivy title and this momentous win over Connecticut may just be enough to buoy the team to a share of the league crown.
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