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The Harvard women’s soccer team entered Saturday’s contest in danger of locking in its first losing record in Ivy play since 2007. Facing one of the top teams in the conference, No. 17 Princeton, only served to increase the challenge as the Crimson was on its back foot right from kick-off.
The Tigers found the back of the net for the first time in the ninth minute through senior midfielder Vanessa Gregoire and never let up, scoring a total of six times before the final whistle blew. Eight players recorded at least one goal or assist for Princeton, a number made only more stunning when compared to the 14 outfield players Harvard fielded over the course of the game.
The Crimson (7-8, 1-4 Ivy) was able to keep the contest close in the first half by scoring a goal of its own, but the Tigers (12-2, 4-1) proved too much to handle in the second and ultimately prevailed, 6-1.
“Princeton’s a top-15 team for a reason,” Harvard coach Chris Hamblin said. “At the end of the day, both teams had six shots on goal and it was a matter of Princeton being much more clinical, putting themselves in more clear-cut shooting positions.”
For stretches of the game, the Crimson did indeed threaten. Especially in the first half, directly following Gregoire’s opener, Harvard responded with a flurry of shots and forced three saves from Tigers sophomore goalkeeper Natalie Grossi. The fourth shot on goal, from freshman Linda Liedel, found its way through to knot the score at 1-1.
Princeton immediately snuffed out any momentum the Crimson had gained, however, responding a minute later with a goal of its own. The game-winner came courtesy of sophomore forward Courtney O’Brien, who latched on to a low corner from midfielder Samantha McDonough that had split two Harvard defenders. O’Brien placed the ball perfectly past Crimson junior goalkeeper Danielle Etzel, a common theme all afternoon as Harvard goalies were unable to save a single shot.
Both teams slowed down their pace of play before half, and the Tigers entered the intermission with a one goal advantage.
“It was a great response,” Hamblin said. “We didn’t start the game as well as I would have liked, but the goal woke us up. Sometimes, it takes a trigger to push the team in the right direction, and once we got that push, we tied up the game and played them pretty even for the rest of the half.”
The second 45 minutes was a much different story, however. After both teams recorded six shots in the first half, Princeton outshot the Crimson 8-1 in the second. Junior forward Mimi Asom added the Tigers’ third goal five minutes after the break, and put the game out of reach with her second goal in the 61st minute.
“We didn’t have the quality today to last the game,” Hamblin said. But when we did go down by a couple goals, we wanted to make sure we didn’t call it in and put ten in our box. You don’t learn that way, and even with this difficult loss, I know the team can take a lot away from it.”
As it stands however, the result is Harvard’s worst loss since a 7-0 defeat to UCLA in the 2014 NCAA Tournament. In conference play, it is the worst margin the team has suffered since a 5-0 loss to Princeton in 2006.
—Staff writer George Hu can be reached at email@example.com.
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