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For 89 minutes and 48 seconds on Saturday afternoon, the Harvard women’s soccer team (11-4-1, 5-0-1 Ivy) battled driving rain and an aggressive Dartmouth squad (3-12, 1-5) to a 1-1 tie.
With the game almost certainly heading into overtime, sophomore Peyton Johnson had other plans. Driving the ball over a Big Green wall and just under the crossbar, the midfielder converted a 28-yard free kick to put the team ahead with only 12 seconds remaining. Johnson’s free kick capped off a memorable final home game at Soldiers Field Soccer/Lacrosse Stadium for the class of 2012.
A scoreless affair between Penn and Brown later in the day guaranteed the Crimson at least a share of its 10th Ivy League title.
“[The seniors] have done so much for us—for this program,” Johnson said. “To get a win for them in their final home game was really awesome. They deserved it. [Saturday] was definitely for them.”
For a while, it appeared that the seniors’ final trot off of the pitch wouldn’t be so triumphant.
After extended pregame ceremonies in windy conditions, the Big Green flew out of the gate, almost connecting on a cross into the box in the sixth minute and then tallying the game’s first goal in the 10th minute.
Aurelia Solomon took a well-aimed shot from 25 yards away that found a hole in the top left corner of Harvard’s net.
But the Crimson showed its resiliency once again.
“Kind of unfortunately, we’ve been in that spot a bunch of times,” co-captain Melanie Baskind said. “It’s the third time in the Ivy League that we’ve found ourselves down in a hole. I don’t think we freaked out at all.”
After Dartmouth was unable to capitalize on a couple more opportunities, the momentum slowly shifted, as the ball spent more and more time in the Big Green’s end.
With the temperature dropping and the rain picking up, Harvard began dominating play and a goal seemed imminent.
Coming into the game with just under 13 minutes remaining in the first half, freshman Erika Garcia was prepared to make the requisite play.
Controlling the ball on the left side of Dartmouth’s penalty box, the rookie sent a cross across middle to Baskind, who put the ball in the back of the net to level the score with under two minutes to go before halftime.
On the day, the Crimson fired 14 shots compared to the Big Green’s 12, but five of Dartmouth’s attempts were on target as opposed to Harvard’s three.
With a stiff wind at their back, the Crimson women continued to thrive on the momentum they had gained before going into the locker room.
Despite getting the ball into the penalty box on numerous occasions, they were unable to put the goalie under heavy pressure, as a number of shots caromed off defenders or were blown wide.
Halfway through the second period, it seemed as if the Big Green was ready to regain the lead.
Thanks to a number of well-placed counter-attacking outlet passes, Dartmouth had several breakaway chances, but strong play from Harvard freshman goaltender Bethany Kanten, who tallied four saves on the day, kept the game knotted up entering the final minutes.
In a back-and-forth game seemingly destined for overtime, a last minute foul by the Big Green just outside of its own penalty box gave the Crimson one more opportunity.
Then with time about to expire, Dartmouth erected a wall too close to the ball, stopping the clock and allowing Johnson time to prepare.
Immediately after taking the shot, she was confident.
“You can tell when you strike something well, that it’s going to come off well,” she said.“That was definitely the case.”
After watching the ball drop to the ground behind the Big Green goalkeeper, the ecstatic Harvard squad mobbed the sophomore.
Then, the players frantically got back into a semblance of a defensive formation to thwart one final Dartmouth push before reconvening atop the screaming midfielder.
“After a game like today’s, it really shows what our team is made of—we are really 27 strong,” Johnson said.
Harvard coach Ray Leone thought it was a fitting final home game for a group of six seniors that will go to the NCAA tournament for the third time in their four years in Cambridge.
“The senior class has had so much success,” he said. “To stick with it here at Harvard and to go for four years together—all those practices, all those games, all that time—we are happy to end it like this on their Senior Day.”
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