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Flying into their stiffest competition of the regular season, the Harvard women’s soccer team made like Superman to the University of Washington to begin competition in the Husky/Nike Invitational. The Crimson (2-1) first play No. 21 Washington (3-2-1) tonight at 7 p.m. before facing off against No. 5 Portland (5-2) at 11 a.m. on Sunday.
All three teams played in the NCAA tourney last year, with Portland reaching the semifinals. Also participating in the tournament is UC-Irvine (2-2).
The winner will be determined by its win-loss record, with ties broken by head-to-head records, then number of goals. The Pilots have claimed the last four invitationals after host Washington won the first three.
Portland may be even more dangerous than its No. 5 ranking indicates, having won its last five games since the return of top scorer Christine Sinclair, last year’s tournament offensive MVP. Sinclair missed Portland’s first two games while playing in the U-19 Worlds, where she tallied 10 goals for the Canadian team.
Portland also boasts last year’s defensive MVP, Lauren Orlandos.
The Huskies have been on a slide, without a win in their last three competitions after starting out the season with three straight victories. Washington was unable to convert on 24 shots on goal in their last outing, a 1-1 tie with Cal State Fullerton.
Tonight marks the first meeting between the Huskies and the Crimson.
Though Harvard lost its last game, 2-1, against No. 10 Penn State, the Crimson enters tonight’s competition with high expectations. With the goal to win three games against top-25 teams on the schedule this year, Harvard coach Tim Wheaton believes his team up to the challenge.
“I don’t know if I can be more confident,” Wheaton said. “I had every expectation of winning [against Penn St.]. I think anybody who watched [that] game thought we were evenly matched.”
Freshman goalkeeper Katie Shields has settled in nicely already, with a 1.06 goals against average. After making 12 saves in the Penn State game, which was the second contest for the Crimson in the Harvard Invitational last weekend, Shields was named to the All-Tournament team.
The Crimson started the season with 5-1 and 4-0 victories against Vermont and Central Connecticut, respectively.
Leading the team in scoring is senior forward Joey Yenne, who has three goals and three assists on the year. Yenne’s third goal of the season gave Harvard a 1-0 lead with 36 seconds left in the first half against Penn State.
“At halftime, we said don’t be surprised, because I think kind of some people were surprised,” Yenne said. “But we shouldn’t be. We belong on the field with them.”
With Harvard able to compete with the No. 10 team in the country, it should continue to battle with other powerhouses like Portland and Washington.
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