The first goal of junior forward Rachel Garcia’s Harvard career could not have come at a better time. The transfer from the University of Georgia lifted a lob over New Hampshire junior goalkeeper Mimi Borkan to lift the Crimson women’s soccer team (2-4-1) to a 2-1 victory and snap the squad’s three-game losing streak. Despite outshooting the Wildcats, 24-9, Harvard needed overtime for the second straight season to get past New Hampshire (2-4-3) and its physical defense.
“It was an exciting way to end,” Garcia said. “[Senior] Emily [Mosbacher] played a great ball to me and the goalie was a little bit out, so I was able to chip her, and it was a fun way to end the game.”
The win was the Crimson’s first of the season at Jordan Field and the team’s first since its opener against Army. Junior forward Midge Purce broke Harvard’s 244-minute scoreless streak with a tally right before halftime. Purce weaved her way through the New Hampshire defense before dribbling around a diving Borkan to give the Crimson the early advantage.
The matchup to watch entering the evening was Harvard’s struggling offense taking on a Wildcats defense that had allowed six goals in its previous two games. The Crimson controlled the ball for almost the entire game and outshot New Hampshire by at least six shots in each half.
“I think overall, everyone just went out there as a team,” Garcia said. “We all pressured together, and we’re getting in a groove together.”
After Harvard generated several scoring chances to start the half, New Hampshire mobilized one of its only offensive rushes into the Crimson zone. After Wildcats sophomore forward Brooke Murphy left a centering pass, second-year midfielder Gabrielle Sloan buried it. Harvard junior goalkeeper Lizzie Durack got a fingertip on it, but the shot sailed into the net’s upper left corner.
It was one of the only mistakes the Crimson defense, the strong point on the team’s recent road trip, made all night. Captain Haley Washburn, junior Bailey Gray, sophomore Marie Becker, and freshman Hannah Natanson each logged at least 90 minutes in protection of Durack.
“I think pressuring as a team [was key],” Gray said. “We’ve really been focusing on team defending this year. We’re all in it together and that’s led to our success.”
While Durack did not have to face many shots, the New Hampshire defense was busy almost the entire night. The Wildcats, playing only their second true road game of the season, committed 12 fouls and senior defender Kirsten O’Neil picked up a yellow card late in the game.
“I think we just had to be physical, too, and take it out on them as much as they took it out on us,” Garcia said.
New Hampshire only used two substitutions the entire game, including zero in the first half. Meanwhile, Harvard used five subs to keep the pressure on the Wildcats for all 93 minutes.
“We’re extremely deep,” Gray said. “Everyone on the field is great,:we have so much talent. It’s been really awesome this year.”
Purce picked up her team-leading second goal while Garcia became the fourth different Crimson player to score this season. The Duluth, Ga. native tallied eight goals and 11 assists while playing for the Bulldogs over the last two seasons. A draw would have been difficult for Harvard to swallow considering its recent offensive struggles and myriad scoring chances.
“I think it was huge,” Gray said. “It gets the ball rolling, gets our confidence up. It’s a good thing scoring goals.”
The Crimson improved to 8-1-0 against New Hampshire under ninth-year coach Ray Leone. Harvard went to 1-0-1 on the year in overtime games while the Wildcats fell to 0-1-3.
“It was definitely exciting,” Garcia said. “We’ve had a couple losses so it’s been tough for us. So, for us as a team, [it was key] to be able to get over that and move forward with the season.”
—Staff writer Stephen J. Gleason can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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