Tuesday’s Euro 2012 playoff contests saw eight teams either suffer heartbreak or erupt in celebration. For tiny Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Estonia, and the usually powerful Turkey, it’s time to go home and reflect on what had been a valiant effort to qualify for the European Championships.
The sadness on these players’ faces reminded me of what I witnessed on Saturday afternoon at BU’s Nickerson Field. After the final whistle, and the home team erupted in celebration while the visitors bowed their heads in disappointment. The Terriers had battled their way to the next round of the NCAA tournament while the result sent the Harvard women’s soccer team back to campus with a bittersweet conclusion to an otherwise bright season.
Rookie goalkeeper Bethany Kanten crumpled to the ground, lamenting her performance in her first NCAA appearance of her young career. The freshman did not play like one all season, making critical saves throughout and finishing with a 1.12 goals-against average. But her first loss in 10 games overwhelmed her, and the 3-0 score line was, in my opinion, an unjust way to end a strong rookie campaign—not to mention the fact that the first goal was questionable, at the very least.
BU’s opening score came off a strange play in the penalty area. The Terriers took a high corner kick, which Kanten jumped up to snatch. While the freshman was in flight, a BU forward collided with Kanten, leaving her on the ground and granting Terrier Kylie Strom a shot on an open goal. The referee kept the whistle tucked away, and Strom wasted no time in putting the ball in the back of the net.
The tally boosted BU’s confidence, and a second goal came shortly off of a good buildup by the Terrier offense.
At halftime, talks erupted in the press box and on BU’s radio channel about the referee’s decision to allow play to continue after Kanten fell to the ground. But while there was disagreement about the call, most of us agreed that the scoreboard was fair in demonstrating how dominant the Terriers were to start the match—BU had outshot Harvard, 7-4, and had no trouble controlling possession in the midfield.
To Kanten’s dismay, a Crimson own goal left the rookie helpless and sealed the deal midway through the second period.
While Crimson coach Ray Leone and co-captain Melanie Baskind declined to comment on the first goal, Leone did laud his team for being a resilient bunch throughout the season, always coming from behind when they needed to. A win against a team ranked No. 12 in the country just wasn’t meant to be. BU captured its 14th win in a row on Saturday, a stretch that saw the Terriers outscore their opponents, 42-4. That’s just absurd.
And getting the first goal in a match like this means everything. An experienced and prolific BU team dictated the pace of the game. It deserves its spot in the next round.
While a comeback might have been possibile, Harvard’s inexperience showed on Saturday. Though there were flashes of the level of play that the Crimson demonstrated this season, the visitors never got their rhythm going and were clunky in the midfield, failing to string enough passes together and allowing the Terriers to strip them of the ball too many times.
This postseason loss serves as a valuable experience for the young team. After the class of 2011’s departure, one of the most interesting story lines was how the incoming class of players was going step up. The strong rookie class helped the team reached a phase it hadn’t last year: the NCAA tournament.
Leading the youth were co-captains Baskind and Lindsay Kowal, who were among the only ones composed and collected after Saturday’s loss. They were of course dejected that their final season had to come to close, but the seniors were immensely proud of the strides this team made this year. Harvard finished undefeated in league play and had its best record in over 10 years, captured the Ancient Eight crown, and boasts the Ivy League Player of the Year in Baskind.
Chins up, girls. After achieving all this, there is really nothing to cry about. There’s only next season to which to look forward.
—Staff writer Brian A. Campos can be reached at email@example.com.