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W. Soccer Faces UMass in NCAAs

* Crimson looks to avenge last year's 2-1 loss



For the second year in a row, the No. 17 Harvard women's soccer team (11-3-2, 6-1 Ivy) begins its quest for the national championship by facing the No. 20 University of Massachusetts Minutewomen (17-4, 11-0 Atlantic 10). The setting is the same--Ohiri Field, first round--but this time around Harvard hopes for a better outcome.

It's time for revenge.

Not only did Harvard lose in triple overtime in last year's NCAA tournament, but the winning goal for UMass was an own-goal by Harvard.

Needless to say, Harvard is eager to avenge that heartbreaking 2-1 loss.

"Last year's loss to UMass definitely provides extra incentive," said junior midfielder Devon Bingham. "Everyone wants revenge and wants to beat them like we know we can. We feel we should have won last year, and it's time to do that this year."

Harvard's history of meeting UMass in the NCAA tournament extends beyond last year. In 1994, the Crimson also fell prey to the Minutewomen in the first round by a score of 3-0. And in 1984, Harvard met UMass in the first round and lost 1-0.

"UMass has strength in their style of play," said sophomore Anne Browning, who posts a remarkable 0.67 goals-against-average on the season. "But it's nothing we haven't seen before."

This will be the Harvard women's fifth appearance in the NCAAs.

Priding itself on its speedy attack and a strong defense, UMass is a young team--12 of its 18 players are freshmen or sophomores.

Losing six starters coming into this season, including the school's all-time leading scorer Rebecca Myers and three-time All-American Erin Lynch, the 1997 campaign looked to be a challenge for the Minutemen. However, the youth has picked up where the team left off last season.

"We just want to play our game," Bingham said. "We have been working certain defensive drills to prepare for UMass's style of play, but we just want to play like we have been."

Harvard's season has been marked by overcoming adversity.

At the beginning of the season, captain and leading scorer Emily Stauffer announced that she would be sitting out this season in order to be with her family and her brother Matt, the former Williams soccer captain, who has been diagnosed with leukemia.

But the misfortune did not end there.

After the seventh game, Harvard received another blow. Senior midfielder Kristen Bowes was out for the season with a stress fracture. Three weeks ago, junior back Jaime Chu suffered a knee injury, ending her season.

Even the results at the beginning of the season were disappointing for Harvard, the two-time defending Ivy League Champions. It dropped its second league contest 3-2 at the hands of Yale. After the first seven games, the Crimson had a 4-2-1 record.

Since then Harvard has been on fire--winning seven of its final eight games and six straight Ivies.

"The end of the season was so high-charged, with every game counting so much, that we have been forced to take games one at a time," Browning said. "From here on out it's single elimination. In that sense, the season is [today]."

Weather conditions could be a factor--considering that Harvard received around three inches of snow Friday evening and more snowfall--approximately two inches--is expected before the game starts at 1 p.m. today.

"Everybody is worried about the weather," Browning said. "I walked out on the field [yesterday], and the grass underneath seemed fine, but we will have to get a little lucky."

Hopefully luck will be on Harvard's side, and it will put an end to Umass's domination over it in the NCAAs.

"Everyone is really psyched," Bingham said.

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