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Another somewhat encouraging performance ended in another discouraging result for the Harvard women’s soccer team (0-3-0).
After falling in a 2-0 hole early against New Hampshire, the Crimson could not quite recover under the lights of Soldiers Field Wednesday night.
“I’m really proud of our team because we didn’t back off,” freshman forward Midge Purse said of the squad’s mentality. “It was ok, now we are down 2-0, now we need to get two more goals.”
Harvard won the possession battle and produced numerous chances but couldn’t overcome the deficit and fell by a final score of 2-1.
“It wasn’t like we were emotionally defeated,” captain Peyton Johnson said. “We were pressing until the very last minute.”
The Wildcats struck first as Kennedy Nickerson’s free kick found Jordan Logue, who slipped it across her body and past junior goalkeeper Bethany Kanten into the corner of the net.
Moments later, Nickerson took a corner that landed in front of the goal and found its way to the back of the net off a Crimson defender.
“Collectively, when we do play well, it just feels a lot better than that, and it wasn’t there tonight,” Purse said.
Harvard picked it up later in the half. One of its best chances came courtesy of Johnson who connected with junior defender Marie Margolius to line a shot at New Hampshire goalkeeper Mimi Borkan.
Johnson once again had a golden chance to put the ball in the net with just eight minutes remaining in the half on a penalty kick, but Borkan guessed correctly, thwarting any positive momentum.
“I think we had a pretty dominant performance but didn’t put it together,” Johnson said.
At halftime, despite being down, the Crimson held the advantage in chances, outshooting its opponent 9-2. Seeking a spark on the defensive end, Harvard also made a substitution at goalkeeper, inserting junior Cheta Emba.
“Coach reminded us it was a position we had been in before,” Johnson said. “And he just told us that the chances will come if we are patient.”
The first threat of the second half came three minutes in when Purse sent a ball across the lip of the goal to charging junior midfielder Meg Casscells-Hamby who was staring at an empty net if she had gotten to the ball.
Harvard didn’t let up thereafter, recording each of the final 12 shots. The Crimson outshot the Wildcats 21-2 over the course of the game.
“There was a lot of heart out on the field,” Purse said. “Everyone pushed their way through.”
The lone goal of the half came with 39 minutes left to go when Midge Purse collected a ball that bounced in her direction and drove it into the back of the net. The goal came as the result of a rebound following up a powerful attempt by Casscells-Hamby that Borkan failed to control.
“There were a lot of us in the box, we got the ball down there, and we scored. It was determination. We all put that ball in the net,” said the freshman of her first college goal.
New Hampshire was able to fend off the Crimson in a tense last half hour and a hectic last two minutes to hold onto the victory.
“I think UNH did a good job giving us fewer chances and making us work harder for the ball,” Johnson said.
The Crimson’s trouble finding the back of the net continued. Despite outshooting its opponents, 28-15, in two closely fought battles over an encouraging weekend out west, the Crimson only managed one goal and lost both games.
“It hurts,” Purse said. “You leave it all out there, and you don’t get the result that you wanted, but that’s the game of soccer.”
Harvard was in familiar territory playing from behind against the Wildcats. Last year, the squad also fell behind, 1-0, before scoring a pair to take the match, 2-1.
The match marked the first game the Crimson played at Soldiers Field this season. The last time Harvard lost its home opener was in 2006, when it fell to Central Connecticut State. Last season, the Crimson recorded a 4-2-3 record at home.
Before Wednesday, Harvard hadn’t lost to New Hampshire in eight seasons.
—Staff writer Daniel A. Grafstein can be reached at email@example.com.
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