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It was a depressing scene at Ohiri Field two Saturdays ago. The Harvard women's soccer team had just been stunned 2-1 by Columbia in its regular season finale, and the prevailing sentiment was that the Crimson's season was over.
But as she tended to the broken left hand she sustained earlier in the overtime defeat, one Harvard senior decided she wasn't ready for her college career to end just yet.
And so when the college soccer gods afforded the Crimson an extra life in the form of an NCAA Tournament bid, forward Ashley Mattison made sure the Crimson would be sticking around as long as possible.
In Harvard's tournament opener against Quinnipiac last Wednesday, Mattison single-handedly ensured a trip to the second round, scoring both goals in the Crimson's 2-1 victory.
Three days later against No. 19 Hartford, Mattison again set the pace for the Crimson, scoring a heroic opening goal that stood up as the game-winning tally.
After a shot by freshman midfielder Katie Westfall deflected off the crossbar, Mattison zeroed in on the rebound and laid herself out to sneak a header into the Hawks' net.
Mattison ended up paying a huge price on the play, as she collided forcefully with the Hartford goalkeeper and landed face-first in the dirt.
"She gave it everything she had on that goal," co-captain Lauren Corkery said. "She dived for the ball, and actually got hurt--the goalie cleated her in the ribs."
Mattison emerged from the scrum with her jersey torn, her body bruised, and--most importantly--her team in the lead.
"She's come up huge," Corkery said. "I am so proud of her."
Mattison's efforts appear all the more clutch when you consider that she had not tallied a strike all season before the tournament started. In fact, prior to last Wednesday, Mattison had scored just two career goals, a total she has now surpassed in the span of two games.
But if her recent success is in any way a product of her relatively low profile, Mattison will not be able to count on that advantage anymore. If there is any lesson to be learned from the Crimson's first two tournament games, it is that those teams who overlook Ashley Mattison do so at their own peril.
And no matter what happens when Harvard takes on No. 1 Notre Dame in the third round on Friday, Mattison can rest assured that she has already secured herself a prominent place in the storied annals of the Harvard women's soccer program.
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