W. soccer beats Harvard in OT

Coming off the field at the close of the first half, the women’s soccer squad experienced something for the first time since their opening weekend in North Carolina — the nagging feeling of a halftime deficit. But the Crimson’s early goal could not temper the confidence of an Eli squad that came into Saturday with eight straight wins, and the hometown Yalies stormed back to defeat their second Big Three foe in as many weeks.

It took the Bulldogs a few extra minutes after regulation in front of a raucous pack of over 1,400 at Soccer-Lacrosse Stadium Saturday evening, but they subdued the Cantabs, 2-1, in a thrilling overtime affair. With their ninth straight win, the 2005 squad heads to the record books with the longest winning streak in program history.

The victory comes on the heels of the Elis’ visit to Princeton Sept. 24, where they escaped the Garden State with a similar 2-1 triumph. Last year brought opposite results on back-to-back weekends, with the squad getting pounded by the Tigers at home and then falling to Harvard the next Saturday in Boston. This year’s schedule provided the squad opportunities for revenge against the two programs that dealt them their only league losses in 2004, losses that only became more stinging after the Bulldogs ran the table in their remaining Ancient Eight matchups.

“We’ve already avenged both losses this early,” said team captain Eleni Benson ’06. “Both wins have felt so good.”

The Bulldogs controlled the momentum from the first whistle of Saturday night’s match-up, but the visitors were first to get on the scoreboard. At 27:16, Cantab forward Allison Keeley handled a corner kick from Nicole Rhodes, depositing it past starting goalkeeper Chloe Beizer ’07 to give the visitors the early edge. Though the Elis put up nine shots to Harvard’s two, they hit the midway point on the wrong end of a 1-0 score for the first time since battling then-No. 12 Duke five weeks ago.

While the Bulldogs had a fair share of scoring chances, Yale head coach Rudy Meredith said the team’s first-half play sagged in comparison to last week’s performance in New Jersey.

“We beat Princeton, but the play dumped off a little bit in the first half [against Harvard],” he said. “I told the team there’s no use in beating Princeton if we lose to Harvard.”

Still, Benson said the team exuded confidence at the half.

“It was a different feeling to be trailing, but we never really thought we weren’t going to win,” she said. “We were waiting to put one in and we had plenty of chances in the first half, but over this season we’ve built up enough confidence that we feel we can pull anything off.”

Meredith said he told the team to keep up the pressure, and wanted a goal in the first ten minutes of the second half to change the pace of the game. The Bulldogs responded, though they took a little bit longer than Meredith’s ultimatum.

Sixteen minutes into the second half, forward Jamie Ortega ’06 took a Christina Huang ’07 cross that deflected off a Crimson defender and booted it past All-Ivy goalkeeper Katie Shields to tie the score at one.

Overtime is quickly becoming familiar territory for the Elis this fall, who made quick work of St. John’s and Maryland in their first two appearances in extra periods this year. After 90 minutes of dominating shots, holding a 22 to six edge over the Cantabs, the home team would again just need a few minutes after regulation to send their rivals back to the Bay State.

Just over two minutes into the extra frame, midfielder Laurel Karnes ’06 sent a cross in front of the net where forward Crysti Howser ’09 was waiting. The freshman standout headed the ball up past Shields to end the battle and deliver consecutive victory number nine for the Elis.

“It was a pretty long cross,” Howser said. “I knew I just had to put it up in the corner, because the goalie had enough time to shift across the net.”

Howser, who leads the team with five goals, was named Ivy League Rookie of the Week for the second time this season for her performance. It is the fourth time in five weeks that a Yalie has nailed down that honor.

The Elis have a full week to gear up for Dartmouth this Saturday. The Big Green fell to Princeton Saturday, falling into the pack of 1-1 Ancient Eight teams behind the Bulldogs, who now hold sole possession of first place.

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