Sophomore midfielder Megan Merritt scored in the 68th minute, lifting the Harvard women’s soccer team to a 1-0 victory over Miami (Ohio) and making the Crimson the winner of the Invitational that bears its name.
With twin 1-0 victories, Harvard (4-2-0) captured the Harvard Invitational title over the Redhawks (2-3-0), then-No.20 Ohio State—defeated by the Crimson on Thursday—and Northeastern.
“These two wins have been really big for us, so that’s good momentum for next week,” said freshman midfielder Rachel Lau.
With the score tied at zero, Merritt lined up to take a free kick from just outside the box. But just before the referee blew his whistle, there was a sudden change of plans.
“I was going to take the free kick, but then my coach told me to go into the box,” Merritt said.
One of the tallest players on the team, Merritt moved to her customary position in front of the goal. The free kick was sent to the far side of the box, where Lau was able to redirect it back in front of the net. Merritt struck a half-volley off the hands of the diving goalie and into the back of the net for her second goal of the young season.
“That’s my position,” said Lau of her role in the game-winning goal, for which she was awarded an assist. “They want me to get all the balls that go to the far post. I was just getting it in the direction of the goal.”
Playing with a lead, a reinvigorated Harvard team pressed the attack for the rest of the contest. Freshman forward Erin Wylie—who fired a game-high six shots—had multiple chances to tally the insurance goal, but she was stifled on every occasion.
“There’s a definite momentum change [on a goal],” Lau said. “I think it gives us an extra jolt and pumps us up more.”
While the Crimson offense was unable to score a second goal, the Miami offense could barely even mount an attack. Harvard co-captain goalie Katie Shields made two saves in recording her fourth shutout of the season—she posted five shutouts all of last season.
The Crimson’s four wins this season have each come by identical 1-0 margins.
Despite dominating the ball in the midfield and outshooting the Redhawks 19-5, it appeared for a while that Harvard would have to settle for a tie. Multiple times the Crimson moved the ball into the Miami box, but multiple times the Redhawks defenders and goalie were up to the challenge.
Harvard’s best chance came near the end of the first half, when sophomore forward Jamie Greenwald blasted a shot that looked like it was destined for the upper corner, but Miami goalie Leigh Terry made a spectacular diving save, grasping the ball with her fingertips and earning loud applause from those in attendance.
“We had a ton of chances and it was just a matter of time until our goal came,” Lau said.
Senior back Sara Sedgwick was named to the All-Tournament Team for the Crimson.
Next, Harvard will take on Boston University at Ohiri Field on Wednesday at 4 p.m. The teams battled to a scoreless tie last season.
After playing the Terriers, the Crimson will kick off Ivy League play at home against Penn on Saturday.
“Our goal [this week] is to remain undefeated on our home field,” Lau said.
—Staff writer Jonathan P. Hay can be reached at email@example.com.