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W. Soccer More Than Ready for Hawks

By Brian T. Garibaldi

The Harvard women's soccer team's sigh of relief could be heard from across the river on Sunday. It eeked out a victory over the University of New Hampshire, 2-1, in the home season opener. Tonight, the women face rough challenge as they square off against the respected University of Hartford.

High expectations follow the Crimson into this year, after an impressive undefeated run to the Ivy Championship last season. But Harvard lacked any real national recognition en route to a 14-2-1 overall record and were subsequently snubbed from the NCAA tournament.

Hartford was put on the schedule to remedy that situation. A perennial powerhouse, a victory over Hartford would greatly boost the image of the Crimson--right?

Unfortunately for Harvard, however, Hartford has struggled noticeably this season. Obviously suffering from the loss of key personnel to graduation, the once feared Hawks are a force in name only.

So what was once thought to be a chance for the Crimson to showcase its talent against a nationally ranked opponent, now becomes a must-win game for a Harvard team that many think is the better squad.

"It's a slightly different game than we expected," junior Emily Stauffer said.

More pressure for the Crimson ladies? Well, maybe so, but after a squeaker against a mediocre New Hampshire team, Harvard could use the pressure of a "big" game to get back into the swing of things.

"We're looking to build some momentum going into Saturday's game against Columbia," co-captain Rachel Chernikoff said.

And with the winner of this year's Ivy Championship earning an automatic bid to the show, what better time to get back its rhythm than four days before the start of the Ivy schedule.

But Harvard is being careful not to look past Hartford.

"We gotta clean things up," Stauffer said, "because Hartford's looking to turn their season around."

Any way you look at it, today is a must-win for the Crimson. That's not saying much for a team that looks at every game as a big game, but it's true nonetheless.

And as for last year? The Crimson has had nine months to forget about what could have been in the NCAAs. It's a new team and a new year.

"When I see us play in practice and think about the things we can do, I feel confident," Chernikoff said. "I think we should all feel confident."

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