A title may not be in the cards for women’s soccer this year, but they can still end their season with a bang by defeating the soon-to-be Ivy League champs and finishing with a winning conference record.
For its last game of the season, the Columbia women’s soccer team (6-9-1, 3-2-1 Ivy) will host Harvard (11-4-1, 5-0-1 Ivy), which has already clinched a share of the 2011 Ivy League title.
“The seniors are a bit more emotional than usual but I think all of the gals have done a good job of remaining in the moment and focusing on the game at hand,” head coach Kevin McCarthy said.
Columbia’s last matchup resulted in a double overtime 2-2 tie with Yale. The game was full of unexpected events and late action, as the teams were scoreless for the first 65 minutes of play. The Bulldogs controlled possession for the duration of the first half, outshooting the Lions 12-2, but senior goalkeeper Lillian Klein and the Columbia defense held them scoreless.
The first goal came in the 63rd minute, when freshman forward Melissa Gavin fired a long-range shot to put the Bulldogs on the board first. Just over a minute later, the Lions tied it up at one with a goal from senior forward and co-captain Ashlin Yahr. Yahr scored her second goal of the match three minutes after her first, putting the Light Blue up 2-1. The Lions held their lead until the 83rd minute, when freshman midfielder Enma Mullo evened the game at two, where it remained through the end of regulation and two periods of extra time.
“In our last three matches we’ve been unbeaten, and our performance level has been better and more consistent,” McCarthy said. “To have performed consistently at a higher level and to have gotten some good results, and to continue that this weekend and to finish on that note for our senior class, that will be our aim.”
Columbia is going to take on a Harvard team that only needs a tie on Saturday to earn full rights to the title, its 10th in program history. The Crimson currently leads Penn by three points in the standings. In its last game, Harvard defeated Dartmouth 2-1 on Saturday in a match that came down to the final seconds, with sophomore midfielder Peyton Johnson drilling a shot past Dartmouth goalkeeper Tatiana Saunders for the win. Because Penn tied Brown last weekend, the only way that the Crimson would share their title with the Quakers is if Saturday yields a Penn win and a Harvard loss.
The Crimson, which is 8-0-1 in its last nine games, already knows it has made the NCAAs for its third time in four years. This dominant season has seen them outscore their opponents 33-12 and outshoot them 244-78.
“We expect a tough matchup like every weekend in the Ivy League,” McCarthy said. “We certainly respect Harvard and they are a fine team but, again, our emphasis is on our performance getting to an even higher level. Just continuing improving our play with the ball, ball movement, getting into the final third, finishing, and being united and connected without the ball.”
This final game marks the career conclusions of seven Lions: Klein, Yahr, midfielder Nora Dooley, defender Megan Gallivan, defender/midfielder Lindsay Mushett, forward Marissa Schultz, and midfielder/forward Liz Wicks. Yahr, who has scored 29 goals during her stint on the team, is one goal away from tying the all-time CU record. Not only will the Light Blue look for a victory for its final contest of 2011, but it will also look to help Yahr achieve this milestone.
“Fortunately for most of the seniors that are healthy, they’re in positions where they’re playing and we expect them to perform well. I’d love for them all to go out on a high note, to be pleased with their personal performance, and to have the team win,” McCarthy said.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Columbia Soccer Stadium.