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Harvard women’s soccer has returned to Jordan Field looking to build off of last season’s success, which ended in a second-round NCAA tournament game.
Now, the Crimson is off to a 2-1-1 start. It beat Fairfield and Connecticut 3-0 and 2-1 respectively, before falling 3-2 on a California trip to Long Beach State and fighting to a 1-1 draw at Pepperdine.
“In the past four games we had a lot of positives that I'm very excited to build upon,” said co-captain and senior midfielder Ava Lung. “I think that we are still waiting to put together a complete performance.”
“While we were in California, it provided us with a really good opportunity to learn from where we fell short and I'm just really excited to do that at home,” Lung added.
Last season, Harvard won its first NCAA Tournament match since 2014. The 2-0 victory over the University of New Hampshire in front of a sold-out Jordan Field was emphatic and capped an exciting season in which the Crimson posted a 12-2-3 record — only narrowly missing out on the Ivy League title to Brown.
In the second round of the tournament, Harvard almost pulled off a miraculous comeback from 3-0 down against the University of South Carolina, but were unable to find a third and tying goal to remain in contention.
“I think when you realize that you have the skillset, the motivation, and the mentality to get to a grind like the postseason at the NCAA, that's obviously something that we want to continue to push forward towards,” junior midfielder Josefine Hasbo explained.
“You can set your expectations in terms of controllables and we can believe in outcomes. It's very important to set those kinds of goals — it needs to be specific and tangible. Our goal is, generally, to become the best team in Ivy League history. We want to win the Ivy League this season — that's our goal and that's what we are pushing for every day,” Hasbo added.
Hasbo is one of several Crimson players off to a strong start this season. She leads the team in points with three goals and two assists in the first four games. The Crimson co-captain returned to Cambridge this fall after playing for Denmark’s Women’s National team in its run to the round of 16 of the Women’s World Cup. Hasbo played in all four games, including in front of a crowd of 75,784 in Sydney for their matchup against Australia.
“Those kinds of exceptional experiences prepare you when you enter all environments, because you've been in such a high pressure environment where you learn a lot about yourself and how you handle and tackle those situations — I'm looking forward to continue contributing those kinds of experience to the team,” said Hasbo when asked about how her World Cup experience has impacted her leadership at Harvard.
In addition to building on last year’s success, the Crimson is also working to integrate new members of the squad after the departure of seven seniors. In the season opener against Fairfield, first-year forwards Jasmine Leshnick and Ólöf Kristindóttir left their mark, both scoring against the Stags in their collegiate debut. Kristinsdóttir added a second goal to her season tally against Long Beach State, scoring an equalizer in the 79th minute off an assist from junior midfielder Hannah Bebar to make it 2-2, before the Beach snatched the win with an 88th minute goal.
“They're doing great so far,” Lung reflected on the first-year class. “It's been really great to see them getting time in games recently. In the past four games, most of them have gotten some really good minutes. They're fitting in with the team really well, both on the field and off the field and I'm really excited to see how they grow throughout the season.”
Harvard’s new members are led by an experienced squad, including three juniors announced on this year’s Hermann Trophy Watch List, an award given to the players voted as the best male and female Division I soccer players nationwide at the end of each season. The Crimson players are Hasbo, Bebar, and junior defender Jade Rose, the 2022 Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year.
Harvard will have to overcome a new twist this season if it is to reach its goal of breaking Brown’s three-year winning streak and claiming an Ivy League Championship. For the first time in over 40 years, the Ivy League will host a bracketed end-of-season tournament. The top-four regular season teams will be invited to compete for this year’s Ivy League title, making the pinnacle of the season a single game as opposed to the traditional points system.
“We're excited for the opportunity to have the tournament because in the past if you dropped points in an Ivy League game it is a big determinant on how your season will play out and where you fall in the standings,” Lung said.
“I think that having the tournament will really be beneficial in that it gives you kind of another shot at getting that bid into the tournament and ultimately makes the league even more competitive than it already is,” Lung added.
The Crimson has its work cut out if it is to improve upon last season and make a run into the postseason, but with a strong class of upperclassmen and competitive group of young players, Harvard is equipped to face the challenge.
Harvard returns to home-field this week with a Thursday night matchup against Syracuse (2-4, 0-0 ACC) at 7:00 PM EST and North Carolina State (1-2-2, 0-0-0 ACC) on Sunday at 1:00 PM EST. The Crimson opens up its Ivy League season on Saturday, September 23rd with a highly anticipated matchup against reigning Ivy Champions Brown at 7:00 PM EST on Jordan Field.
-Staff writer Alexander K. Bell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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