700 days. That was the last time that Harvard women's soccer, the defending Ivy League champions, lost in league play – until Saturday.
In a game characterized by back-and-forth action, the Quakers were able to secure a crucial 1-0 road win in Cambridge to start off their Ivy League campaign, handing Harvard its first loss since October 24, 2015.
Though both sides had their fair share of time in the opposition’s final third, many chances were neutralized by stalwart defensive play from each team.
“It’s great to get that first win, especially on the road,” Penn coach Van Dyke said. "From a team standpoint, it was nice to validate all the hard work that our girls put in in that non-conference schedule."
She praised the Quakers (2-5-2, 1-0 Ivy) for playing “fearlessly” and stressed the need to treat each game with the same attention and respect, in a campaign that is determined solely by league games and not by playoffs.
The Crimson (6-4, 0-1) controlled the tempo early on, but everything changed with fifteen minutes left in the first half. In a moment of brilliance, junior defender Camillia Nwokedi perfectly weighted a pass into the corner of the box onto sophomore forward Emma Loving’s run. Loving fired the ball across the face of the goal and accomplished what no one had done for 365 consecutive minutes – score on Harvard’s keeper Danielle Etzel.
It was the culmination of an improvement in their play in the final third, after what was a frustrating few weeks for the Red and Blue, scoring just two goals in their previous four games.
As the game progressed, the Quakers' defensive line was able to thwart all of Harvard’s opportunities, especially some dangerous runs from Harvard’s freshman forward Murphy Agnew. Penn's sophomore goalkeeper Kitty Qu made some key saves off of Crimson set pieces to secure the clean sheet.
"The defensive effort was huge," Loving said. "We really focused on winning our individual defensive battles and then putting everything together as a team. We locked it down defensively, and Kitty Qu shut it down back there."
The squad finally has momentum — after two straight losses heading into conference play — before Friday’s match at Rhodes Field against Cornell.