In a strange twist of fate, Harvard's 3-0 win over Dartmouth Saturday has catapulted the Crimson into a four-way tie for the Ivy League crown. Cornell's 1-0 victory over Brown Saturday allowed the Crimson to join the Ivy League log jam.
Harvard, Brown, and princeton have final Ivy records of 3-1-2, while Cornell has a 4-2-0 mark. All four teams have earned eight points and a share of the title.
Although Brown and Cornell nicely played into Harvard's hands, the Crimson (10-2-0 overall) still had to contend with Dartmouth. The Big Green (4-9, 1-5 Ivy) arrived at Cumnock field after shutting out Cornell 2-0 the previous weekend, and, given the nature of this Ivy season, no one could be sure Dartmouth would not pull another caper.
Determined to prevent any such upset, Harvard decisively handed Dartmouth a 3-0 defeat. The Crimson's transition play was hampered by the swamp-like Cumnock field, but Harvard dominated the first half.
"We controlled the ball," Harvard Coach Sue Caples said. "The field conditions took a little from us so we stayed in a small passing game."
Although Harvard couldn't fully utilize its speed against Dartmouth, it still connected for a 1-0 lead at the 20:22 mark of the first half. Harvard pressured Dartmouth goalie, Jen Clark, forcing a defender to shoot the ball towards the endline. Clark relaxed a little as the ball appeared to head safely out of bounds, but forward Loren Ambinder pounced on the ball and slammed in into the farside of the net.
Nine minutes later, the Crimson went ahead 2-0--the Big Green's defense made two costly errors and gift-wrapped a Harvard goal.
Forward Sarah Downing carried the ball down the sideline, only to be stopped when a defender sat on the ball. On the ensuing corner, forward Rachel Burke threatened to score on the rebound of a Kristen Fowler shot, but Clark had something else in mind.
"She actually reached over and grabbed the ball with her gloves. It was a little blatant," Burke said.
Fullback Amy Belisle's penalty stroke blew by the goalie's stick side and thumped against the backboard.
"Basically, everyone executed in the first half," Harvard Assistant Coach Donna Lee said. "We moved to the ball strongly, got in a rhythm and prevented Dartmouth from doing anything."
The rhythm slowed a little for the Crimson in the second half, but Dartmouth failed to capitalize. Each time the Big Green tried to move the ball up the middle, it ran into senior co-captain Ceci Clark.
At 25:57 Harvard added another goal to give it an insurmountable 3-0 lead. Fowler fired a bullet past a motionless Clark, in a typical bing-bang corner play.
Close, But No Cigar
Dartmouth rallied in the final minutes of the second half, but the Crimson defense defused several desperate corner attempts. Caples credits Clark, sweeper Tina Lawler, and goalie Lisa Yadao with holding down the fort.
"Tina distributed the ball very well," Caples said. "They played steady and hung tough under some pressure at the end. Overall, it was a decent game despite the muck."
"We played really well in the first half and definately dropped a few levels in the second, but we'll take it," Ambinder said.
The Crimson will take the victory over Dartmouth as well as its share of the Ivy League Championship, but it hopes to carry things a little further.
Harvard plays the University of New Hampshire Tuesday at 2 p.m. at Cumnock Field. A victory would push the Crimson further up the national rankings as it heads into post-season Eastern Conference Tournament play.