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What, only 787 people turned out for one of biggest games in the immensely popular Harvard women's soccer team's history?
The weather might go a long way toward explaining the relatively low attendance, but neither the bitter cold nor the freezing rain could dampen the spirits of a very vocal and supportive crowd.
Throughout the game, a core group of supporters kept up a steady stream of chants and cheers, rooting on the Crimson at every opportunity. As the game progressed, the fans also acted as Harvard Coach Tim Wheaton's megaphone, echoing his pleas for fouls and yellow cards against George Mason.
Referee Reta Brown was not having any of it, though. It was late in regulation before she registered her first and only booking, a yellow card to George Mason's Jenn Gross for unsportsmanlike conduct after Keren Gudeman was pulled down in the visitors' half.
Unfortunately for the Crimson, it will not be able to count on the same support on Saturday in Chapel Hill. But then again, if you're ready to pony up $5 to stand in an ice storm for three hours, why not spring for a plane ticket to North Carolina?
Coming into the game, all eyes were on highly touted Patriots' goalkeeper Jamie Pagliarulo. Pagliarulo, an All-American and member of the U.S. National Under-20 soccer team, is widely regarded as one of the best young goalkeeping talents in the country. The junior is already George Mason's all-time leader in saves, and was once again named All-CAA this season.
It was Harvard's Anne Browning, however, who stole the show in goal. Pagliarulo was good, but Browning was better. The sophomore showed great poise and came off her line with authority to claim every cross which came her way.
Browning can certainly not be faulted for the goal which George Mason scored in the 48th minute, and she can certainly be credited for preventing another in the 90th minute, when she quite literally "took one for the team". Browning rushed out the net to deny Gross on a breakaway chance which might have ended Harvard's season. Her valiant effort was successful, but it also cost her the opportunity to finish what she had started.
Browning had to be helped off the field with a cut on her face, and by some unconfirmed reports, a mild concussion. It is not known whether she will have the opportunity to continue her stellar play in the NCAA quarterfinal.
Harvard looked its most dangerous on the set piece Sunday. Lindsay Minkus' crucial goal in the 49th minute, as well as numerous quality scoring chances, came off of the 13 corner kicks won by Harvard.
George Mason, by all accounts a strong team in the air, seemed to have trouble containing Harvard on restarts. Credit sophomore Gina Foster and her booming corners for that. Foster, a versatile player who is as comfortable up front as she is in back, showed good judgment and great placement in floating her kicks into the heart of the Patriots' defense. This was most apparent on Minkus' goal, in which the ball sailed directly to her forehead as she moved in unmarked at the near post, but it was true of virtually all of Foster's attempts Sunday.
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