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Women's Soccer Closes Nonconference Play with Weekend Split

Dani and the Defense
Senior defender Dani Stollar, pictured here in action last season, provides veteran stability as the team enters Ivy League play next weekend.

After winning at home last week against Quinnipiac, the Harvard women’s soccer team looked to gain vital momentum for Ivy League play by closing out its nonconference slate with more W’s. A two-game road trip to Villanova and Seton Hall, however, stood in its way.

Come the end of the weekend, the Crimson (6-3-0) didn’t quite have a winning streak, but it nevertheless picked up a confidence-building win to bring into conference play.

The team followed up a narrow 2-1 loss to the Wildcats (4-5-0) on Friday afternoon with a convincing 3-0 victory over the Pirates (0-6-2) on Sunday. The win was perhaps the most complete one of the year thus far for Harvard.

“Playing three games in five days, and nine in 24, isn’t easy by any means,” Crimson coach Chris Hamblin said. “The whole coaching staff is proud of how the group battled through it with two strong performances, especially on the road.”

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HARVARD 3, SETON HALL 0

The Pirates entered the contest on Sunday afternoon still searching for their first win of the season.

After a back-and-forth start to the match, the Crimson eventually started to wear Seton Hall down, as Harvard busted the game open with two quick scores late in the first half. The Crimson tacked on a late goal to seal the 3-0 shutout win.

Two freshmen combined for Harvard’s first goal, as forward Murphy Agnew threaded a pass to midfielder Linda Liedel, who beat her defender and then beat the goalie with a bullet to the back left corner. It was the first collegiate goal for Liedel, who was making her third start.

Agnew’s assist, meanwhile, capped off a strong week in which she tallied one goal and two assists.

“Every player on our team has had to step up into a leadership role this season, and I think everyone has done a really great job embracing these new roles,” said Crimson captain Caroline Chagares. “[Liedel] and [Agnew] have been playing really well and we’re really excited for them to continue to change the game.”

Minutes later, junior midfielder Leah Mohammadi added Harvard’s second goal directly from a corner kick. These direct scores, called “olimpicos,” are rare in soccer, but Mohammadi already has two on the year after doing the same thing against Providence in the season opener.

In addition to flashing her spot-kick abilities, Mohammadi continued to be the Crimson’s talisman on offense as she accumulated six shots over the course of the game, five of which were on target. She also added an assist on the team’s third goal, which junior midfielder Zayne Matulis provided the finish on to clinch the game.

The stellar performance by Mohammadi ended a streak of three games in which she failed to get on the score sheet. The junior has, however, tallied at least one shot in all nine games thus far.

“Offensively, it was a game of firsts for us,” Hamblin said. “We had never scored twice in a half before. We had never won a game by more than one goal. These were both objectives we wanted to accomplish before conference play, and we were able to do that today.”

VILLANOVA 2, HARVARD 1

Less than 48 hours earlier, the Crimson took the bus down the I-95 and across the Delaware River to Villanova, Pa., at the Higgins Complex. In that contest, a closely contested first half turned into a more open second half in which the Wildcats slipped past Harvard.

Senior defender Emily Kuefler opened the scoring for Villanova in the 53rd minute when she capitalized on a one-on-one opportunity against Crimson sophomore goalie Kat Hess. A well-placed pass by sophomore midfielder Kristin Barbour had released Kuefler on the left side of the six-yard box, and Kuefler didn’t hesitate to drive the ball into the back of the net.

Agnew answered for Harvard ten minutes later, converting a solo effort to even the score at 1-1. But with tired legs after Wednesday’s win, the team could not hold on for a draw.

Wildcats senior forward Amanda Vocelka snuck behind the Crimson defense in the 84th minute, and connected on a strong header that deflected off Hess and into the goal. With only five minutes remaining, this score turned out to be the game-winner.

It was the first win ever by Villanova over Harvard, in their fourth-ever meeting. The Wildcats ended up earning the win on the back of their movement off the ball, which pushed them over the top.

“We wanted to stay organized on defense, which I thought we did well,” Chagares said. “Villanova is a good team, and we’re going to learn a lot from that game as we near Ivies.”

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