In the realm of academics, the university has never been a stranger to facing off against the best and brightest the world has to offer.
But, a mere fortnight after the men’s soccer team faced off against Haiti, the women posted a similar challenge to a cross-continental opponent, showing that Harvard can compete internationally in athletics as well.
The Crimson (9-7-1, 4-3 Ivy) hosted the Irish women’s national team at Soldiers Field Soccer Stadium, toppling its opponents, 2-1, in a thrilling friendly match.
“I think it was a good result,” Harvard coach Ray Leone said. “They were very good, but we had about four or five good opportunities, and we managed to finish on two of them.”
Set to play without its six seniors from the fall, the Crimson women’s soccer team came together Friday night to get a head start on next year’s fall campaign. First on the agenda was teamwork.
“We really spend a bunch of time trying to work hard on improving [our] team play,” Leone said. “We lost a lot of great players in this senior class, and this game gave us a chance to see where we have gaps and try to fill them.”
Luckily for Harvard, the junior class was up to the task.
Led by junior co-captain defender Lindsey Kowal, the women got off to a great start on the pitch, lacing the ball through their opponents and maintaining most of the possession.
“Without a doubt, our strongest suit Friday night was our ball movement,” Leone said. “We maintained it for about three-quarters of the match, and it really made a difference. No particular players stood out on the field; it was really a team effort.”
That is, besides the two who scored.
Junior midfielder Rebecca Millock, recipient of an All-Ivy League Honorable Mention in the fall, was the first to get on the scoreboard, powering the ball out of the goalkeeper’s reach and straight into the back of the net.
Millock, who finished her junior season with 12 shots in 17 games, had often struggled to find the net in her Crimson career, never recording a goal for Harvard.
Still, for both her teammates and coach Leone, the result of her strike this time was far from unexpected.
“Rebecca’s had a lot of good shots for us this spring,” Leone said. “But this one, she just crushed. From the moment it left her cleat, that ball looked destined for the goal.”
Then, when the Irish team fought back to bring the game to 1-1, the Crimson had a response to quell the comeback rally.