After winning the Ivy League title last season, the Harvard women’s soccer team looked to regain momentum in its first contest of the 2015 season. It did just that.
Senior defender Brooke Dickens’ goal in the 71st minute lifted the Crimson to a 1-0 victory over Army on Sunday. Junior goalkeeper Lizzie Durack pitched a shutout in net, stopping all four Black Knight shots she faced.
“Everyone is really itching to play,” Durack said. “Preseason is this big climactic buildup. To finally be able to go out and put on the real jersey, sing the national anthem, and be out there as a team, it’s a very exciting feeling.”
Army (2-2) was playing its fourth game of the season and second home contest of the weekend while Harvard (1-0) wrapped up its preseason earlier in the week and was seeing in its first game action since a 7-0 loss to UCLA in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last November.
“It showed us that this season is going to be challenging,” Dickens said. “Every team we face is going to be difficult. It’s really awesome to play a tough-minded team like Army. That helped us physically to be able to know how to compete against a team that’s tough like that but also mentally prepare for how we need to break down teams.”
The Black Knights’ physical play was evident from the very get-go, as Army controlled the ball and outshot Harvard 5-1 in the game’s early minutes.
“I think the whole team and the coaches agree we didn’t play as well as we can,” Durack said. “We matched up physically pretty well, but I think we have a lot of things to improve on. It’s definitely a good start and there’s definitely a lot of talented players on the team.”
But junior forward Midge Purce shifted the momentum in the Crimson’s direction entering halftime, jumpstarting the offense with three shots in the final ten minutes of the half. Harvard would open the latter half quickly with four shots, putting pressure on the Black Knights’ defense.
After forcing a corner kick, co-captain Haley Washburn placed her cross in front of the Black Knights’ net. Dickens struck the ball once before a carom sent it back to her. This time she made sure to get more foot on it, sending the ball just below the crossbar and the Crimson to a 1-0 lead it would not relinquish.
“It’s really exciting to score as a defender,” Dickens said. “I was in the right place at the right time. It was definitely a team effort goal.”
Before the final horn, Army took three more shots and had two opportunities on corner kicks but nothing got past Durack. The Sydney native picked up her fourth career shutout in what will most likely be her first season as the Crimson’s full-time goalie. Dickens’ goal was the fourth of her Harvard career. Purce led all players with seven shots and four shots on goal.
“We have a lot to work on still, but we played well together as a team,” Dickens said. “Army is very strong mentally and physically, so coming out, we knew we had a tough opponent. Moving forward, we have a better grip on how we need to improve.”
—Staff writer Stephen J. Gleason can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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