The Crimson had exactly one chance, and it took full advantage.
On the shoulders of junior midfielder Leah Mohammadi’s third game-winning goal of the season, the Harvard women’s soccer team took down crosstown rivals Boston College on Thursday night, 1-0, for its third straight win and fourth shutout in five games. The Crimson (4-1) defeated the Eagles (4-3) for the first time in nearly 15 years.
What makes the victory especially remarkable was that Mohammadi’s goal was Harvard’s only shot-on-goal of the night. After a long midfield pass from senior defender Candy Janachowski got through two BC defenders, Mohammadi took a one-on-one with Eagles goalkeeper Alexis Bryant and finished in the top-right corner.
Bryant recorded one goal-against and zero saves, getting the loss on a night where BC got off 14 shots but came away each time empty-handed. Despite the Crimson recording zero other shots-on-goal the entire game, Mohammadi’s deft chip shot in the 70th minute stood until the final whistle.
“You need the defensive side of the game to come up strong in a game like this, where you know Boston College is going to be attacking,” Harvard coach Chris Hamblin said. “I think we were organized enough to be able to limit their clear-cut chances.”
The second half saw the Crimson backline—anchored by Janachowski, senior co-captain Marie Becker, and sophomore Kimaya Cole—run down every BC ball and deaden plays that could have turned into good chances.
Goalkeepers junior Danielle Etzel and sophomore Kat Hess, meanwhile, played in goal in the first and second halves, respectively, and turned away the balls that went on to become good chances. The two goalies combined for six saves and yet another shutout—all four of Harvard’s wins so far this year have been 1-0 shutouts.
“Our defending from top to bottom was fantastic,” Hamblin said. “Our goalkeepers did great when called upon, and both of them made some really big plays.”
Looking at the stat sheet alone wouldn’t tell you that the Crimson won, however.
BC outshot the home team 14-4 and were awarded ten corner kicks to Harvard’s two. Eight of the Eagles’ corner kicks came in the second half, setting the stage for a barrage of pressure that the Crimson defense was forced to buckle down and withstand. Despite BC’s high shot total and outpouring of what Hamblin calls “half-chances”, Harvard ultimately bent, but did not break.
“Our backline has been incredible for us this year,” Mohammadi said. “They don’t let anything past them…they’re so solid.”
On the other side of the pitch, Harvard was extremely opportunistic with the limited chances a very good BC team gave them. Mohammadi was very succinct in describing the winning play.
“Candy’s ball was incredible,” the goal-scorer said. “That was so good.”
Janachowski’s assist was her first of the season and the first point of her career, now entering her senior year. Mohammadi, meanwhile, now leads the team with three goals, surpassing her total from last year, with all three of them being game-winners (Providence, St. John’s, BC).
After the game, originally scheduled for Wednesday night, was postponed a day due to inclement weather, both teams came out Thursday night under the lights at Jordan Field with scrappy fighting play in the first ten minutes.
“We knew BC was going to be the best team that we’ve played so far,” Mohammadi said. “We were trying to find a happy medium between staying compact defensively and attacking [without] exposing ourselves too much.”
The victory extended the Crimson’s winning streak to three whilst breaking the Eagles’ three-game winning streak. In addition, no one has scored on Etzel and Hess in those three games, totaling 284-plus minutes. Several tough dazzling stops by both of them, even on well-struck shots, helped the defensive cause tremendously.
Shutting out BC was no easy task, as the Eagles had scored 10 goals in their previous three games.
Senior Dani Stollar and freshman Lauren Raimondo recorded a shot apiece, with Mohammadi taking two as well.
—Staff writer Bryan Hu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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