In the last two times the Harvard women’s soccer team faced off against Princeton, a total of 12 goals were exchanged between the two sides. From the outset of their latest encounter on Saturday afternoon, however, heavy rain threatened to hamper the two high-flying offenses.
As it turned out, the wet conditions played a role in keeping the game low-scoring, but the performances of the two goalkeepers were more responsible for the tight affair. A 4th minute goal from senior forward Karly Zlatic after a scramble in the box proved to be the difference, as the contest ended 1-0 in favor of the Crimson.
“It was a wet and windy game and challenging for both teams to get their rhythm going,” said Harvard coach Chris Hamblin. “I’m incredibly proud of the team and how we were able to grind out the result today, on a day we didn’t necessarily playing our most attractive football.
With the win over the Tigers, the Crimson (8-3-3, 3-0-2 Ivy League) held onto its second-place standing in the Ivy League. It now sits just two points behind league leader Columbia after the Lions were held to a draw against Dartmouth at home. The two teams will have tough road matchups next weekend before clashing the following week, on the last day of the regular season.
Princeton (9-4-1, 1-3-1), meanwhile, continues to freefall after starting the season with a nearly perfect run of nonconference games. It has lost three in a row, and is currently tied for fifth in the conference.
The Tigers’ performance on Saturday mirrored that of its last two losses, as they dominated possession and enjoyed the greater share of chances. Just as against Brown and Columbia in the two weekends before this one, they easily outshot Harvard. For the second straight time, however, Princeton did not find the back of the net.
Crimson senior goalkeeper Lizzie Durack was the main reason for the shutout, as she saved all seven shots that the Tigers fired on target. She was especially sharp at the beginning of the second half, when Princeton came out with a sense of urgency and peppered Durack’s goal.
In the span of 15 minutes right after halftime, Princeton earned three corner kicks and mustered four shots, all while holding the ball almost exclusively in its attacking half. Senior defender Haley Chow directed two well-placed headers at the net during this time, but Durack stood tall in goal and handled both.
“There haven’t been many times this season when we’ve been opened up in the back and needed Lizzie a whole lot,” Hamblin said. “But today, we did, and she came through for us with her handling and leadership. She played like the international goalkeeper that she is.”
The Tigers’ own international star, senior forward Tyler Lussi, led the charge for her team with five shots and three shots on goal. Both totals were game-highs.
On the other side of the field, the Harvard offense found relatively little success against a Princeton defense that keyed in on star senior forward Midge Purce. Only two Crimson players mustered a shot all game, and only Zlatic managed a shot on goal. Purce, meanwhile was held without a single shot for the first time this season.
“Midge is a unbelievably talented player, and she finds ways to help the team even if they don’t show up on the scoresheet,” Durack said. “But for us to still win this game shows how deep of a team we have this year.”
A red card for Tigers junior defender Katie Pratt-Thompson also helped the Crimson see out the shutout. After Princeton was reduced to 10 women in the 76th minute, it barely tested the Harvard defense. Chow fired a desperation shot from long range in the 89th minute, but that was the only attempt on goal by either team in the final 15 minutes.
“Princeton played really well, just as we expected them to,” Durack said. “We were still able to grind out the win though, as we’ve done and need to continue to do.
—Staff writer George Hu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org—Staff writer Bryan Hu can be reached at email@example.com
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