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Freshman forward Dani Stollar and co-captain Meg Casscells-Hamby each scored goals to propel the Harvard women’s soccer team to victory over Cornell, 2-0, at Soldiers Field on Saturday.
Harvard (7-3-2, 2-0-1 Ivy) dominated the Big Red (6-5-0, 1-2-0) on a cold, rainy afternoon to keep its Ivy League unbeaten streak intact at 11 games and remain atop the Ancient Eight standings.
In the contest’s opening minutes, both teams struggled to control the ball as they traded possession in the midfield and had few opportunities on goal. The Crimson showed no signs of fatigue despite coming into the contest having played three consecutive overtime games.
It was clear from the opening whistle that the Harvard defense was at its best, as the Crimson defenders swarmed to the ball and cut off Cornell passes, barely letting the Big Red get the ball into the attacking third.
Harvard allowed just five shots all game and senior goalkeeper Cheta Emba made two saves en route to the Crimson’s eighth shutout of the season. Emba continued her recent strong play, as she has surrendered goals in only two of the nine games in which she has played this year. Harvard is yet to allow a goal through three conference games, and Emba has seen action in each of those contests.
“They’re defending the spaces very, very well—good chemistry, good goalkeeping,” Harvard coach Ray Leone said. “It’s not just the [backline], the team defense was excellent today.”
On the offensive side, the Crimson broke out of the slump that had held it to just one goal in the past three games. In the 19th minute, sophomore forward Midge Purce blasted a shot from outside the box that nailed the crossbar and landed on the goal line before bouncing back into play.
The Harvard barrage continued from there, as the Crimson, led by Purce, fired eight shots before Cornell recorded its first. Harvard broke through in the 31st minute, as Stollar ripped a shot from the top of the box to the lower left corner of the goal. The Crimson continued to press at the end of the first frame and outshot the Big Red, 10-2, in the first 45 minutes of play.
After halftime, Harvard refused to sit back and protect its lead, coming out with just as much energy as it had in the first half. In the 53rd minute, the Crimson tallied an insurance goal as Casscells-Hamby finished a header off a cross from junior forward Emily Mosbacher.
“It was just a great ball by [Mosbacher], as soon as she got around the corner I just tried to get in the right spot.” Casscells-Hamby said. “I was just in the right spot at the right time.”
For the rest of the game, Harvard continued to threaten to add to its lead, narrowly missing on a number of solid chances. Cornell mustered only three shots in the second half as the Harvard defense clamped down, never allowing the Big Red any hope of getting back into the contest.
“We were really getting around the corner well and finishing our chances, and we had a lot of runners coming in,” Casscells-Hamby said. “It was good all around.”
Purce and Mosbacher led the way for the Crimson, recording eight and six shots, respectively, while junior midfielder Haley Washburn added four.
The Harvard offense has been balanced all season long, as nine different players have found the back of the net this year. Purce leads the way with four goals, and Casscells-Hamby and Mosbacher have each notched three.
“[I’m] just really, really proud of the way we played today,” Leone said. “We’ve been giving effort, maximum effort in all these games, that has not been the issue. Just the movement of the ball, the support of everyone, and our flow was just so much better [today] than it’s been in the last few weeks.”
—Staff writer Phil Delamater can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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