Harvard scored two first-half goals against a Cornell team that had only conceded one this season previously, as the Crimson women’s soccer team picked up its third straight Ivy League victory on Saturday in Ithaca, N.Y., by a 2-0 score.
Senior forward Emily Mosbacher tallied her first goal of the season, while junior forward Midge Purce picked up her Ivy League-leading fourth score in conference play as Harvard (6-6-1, 3-0-0 Ivy) removed the Big Red (8-1-3, 1-1-1) from the ranks of the Ivy League unbeatens.
“We obviously knew they had a great defensive record and that we’d have to come up with strategies to unlock their defense,” junior goalkeeper Lizzie Durack said. “Our forwards and our front six really played well together.”
Mosbacher continued the Crimson’s recent trend of scoring early in conference games. The Woodside, Calif., native headed a pass from junior defender Bailey Gary past Cornell goalkeeper Kelsey Tierney to give Harvard the lead in the 21st minute. It was the first goal of the season for Mosbacher and the 10th of her collegiate career.
“Ivy League soccer is just a totally different game,” Mosbacher said. “We knew we had to bring something special since it’s so intense. I think it made the whole team really happy to get after it.”
Gary has registered one goal and three assists in the team’s last two conference games.
The Big Red’s Tierney had posted a shutout in all but one of her previous 11 starts, with the lone blemish coming against Wagner on Sept. 27.
Purce continued her hot streak on Saturday. The junior took nine shots, including five on goal, to outshoot the Big Red on her own. Her goal in the 26th minute gave the Crimson more than enough insurance, and the team is 5-0-0 in games in which it has scored at least two goals.
“If we’re scoring goals, we’re going to have a good chance of winning games,” Durack said. “Midge and everyone is contributing to that. Midge is a world-class player and she brings something extra to the field every time she’s on it. It’s not just her; everyone around her is doing their part, beyond their part really.”
The Crimson’s suffocating defense was on display once again in Ithaca. Harvard held the hosts to four shots, with only two on net. Durack has had to save only seven shots since Ivy League play began two weekends ago. Defenders Gary, Becker, and senior Alika Keene, along with co-captain Haley Washburn and senior midfielder Brooke Dickens, anchored the effort as each player logged 90 minutes of game time.
“If I don’t have to face shots, my life is a lot easier,” Durack said. “Everyone’s defending all over the field. We have a strong defensive mentality. When you put a lot of pressure on the other team, it makes it very hard for them to attack. It just took some time for everyone to feel comfortable playing with each other.”
The Crimson has had Cornell’s number in recent years. Harvard is 18-0-4 in the last 22 meetings between the conference rivals. The last loss the Crimson suffered against the Big Red came on Oct. 2, 1993, in overtime. This weekend’s game was Cornell’s first home loss of the season while Harvard has won its last three on the road.
Since Ivy League play began, Harvard is second in the conference in goals. Fresh off of her game-winning goal on Tuesday evening, junior forward Rachel Garcia added two shots for the Crimson. Gary has led an offensive surge by the Harvard defense, as six of the Crimson’s last ten goals have been either scored or assisted by a defender.
“Our defense has always been rock solid,” Mosbacher said. “They’ve just kept doing what they’ve always been doing, and we’re capitalizing on it now.”
After going up early in the game, Harvard did not let up. The Crimson had six shots and two corner kicks in the second half while allowing only two Big Red shots. The win also allowed the Crimson to keep pace with Princeton atop the Ivy League standings.
—Staff writer Stephen Gleason can be reached at email@example.com.