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It was about as wild a 1-0 game as you can get.
The game had everything: great saves by the goalies, fancy footwork from the forwards and strong defense from the backs.
And when the referee finally blew the last whistle, the Harvard women's soccer team had upset 20th-ranked Providence College at Ohiri Field yesterday.
Harvard is now 8-4-1 (4-2-0 Ivy), and has won eight games in a season for the first time since 1987. Providence is 11-5-0.
Laurie Uustal scored unassisted for the Crimson on what Harvard Coach Tim Wheaton called, "the most beautiful goal I've ever seen."
Uustal took a throw-in from midfield, and faked out three defenders on her way to the goal. At close range, she arced a shot past Friar goaltending phenom Jen Mead for the deciding tally with 30:44 gone in the first half.
The beauty of the goal was in the finesse. Uustal did not outrun the defense, but rendered the Friars powerless with her skillful ballhandling. Uustal's shot was placed so perfectly, Mead never had a chance.
"Laurie was one of the two major highlights of the game for us," Wheaton said. "The other was [sophomore goalie] Brooke [Donahoe]."
Between the Twines
Donahoe called up an amazing performance for this game. Every time the Friars came down the field, Donahoe fought them off with play equal to her more famous counterpart in the other goal.
"Brooke was awesome today," stopper Skyler Vinton said.
Donahoe had 13 saves on 23 shots and recorded her fourth shutout of the season.
While Uustal and Donahoe provided the highlights, the entire Crimson team turned in a great performance, reminiscent of its stellar midseason run in which it upset ninth-ranked Massachusetts and whipped Pennsylvania and Holy Cross.
"We came out hard and got the breaks," Harvard Assistant Coach Stacy Flionis said. "We established ourselves in the first 10 minutes, and after that it was a question of taking care of business."
Providence, though, was pumped for this game. Friars' Coach Nicole Crepeau had been an assistant to Wheaton for the last two years and she wanted to teach her old boss a lesson.
"[Crepeau] visited us five times during the season, and we knew she had been scouting us," sophomore midfielder Betsy Miller said.
Can't Be Stopped
Right from the outset, Wheaton's and Crepeau's squads battled hard. The game resembled a tennis match, as each team in turn would gain possession of the ball and drive downfield, only to be stopped by the opposing defense.
The difference was that the Friars were being stopped by the Crimson backs, while the Crimson offense was penetrating all the way to Mead in the net.
The front line of Uustal, Co-Captain Robin Johnston and Jen Minkus shredded the inexperienced Friars defense, which featured converted midfielders in two key positions. But Mead held the defense together by saving 13 out of the Crimson's 17 shots.
"Although their defense was big and fast, we could get by them," Minkus said. "But a good goalie can pick up an entire defense, and that's what Mead did today."
As it has in the past, the Crimson got a lift from its bench, which continues to shine.
Junior Kristy Gaschler and sophomore Martha Schneider distinguished themselves substituting for Miller, who was slightly injured in a collision in the first half.
Miller recovered and returned to the game in the second half.
The game was a crucial victory for the Crimson. More important than the "W" was the return of the team's strong play, which had deserted it over the last three games.
"We did very well," Johnston said. "We'll be at our peak for the next game."
That next game is a big one, against Dartmouth, which is undefeated in Ivy League play.
But if it can play like it did today, the Crimson should be able to handle the Big Green at home this Saturday.
NOTEBOOK: Jen Minkus was named the Ivy League Player of the Week for scoring the game-winning goals in the Crimson's victories over Yale and Princeton.
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