With just a second remaining in the first half and up by one over Dartmouth, it seemed like Columbia might finally be building some positive momentum. The Lions were riding a three-game winning streak coming into the weekend’s Ivy League finale, a streak that included their first conference victory of the year. And against the 16th-ranked Big Green, the Light Blue had overcome another early deficit, taking a 6-5 lead with two minutes left before the break.
But in the last second of the period, Dartmouth’s Katherine Chiusano dashed Columbia’s hopes of a halftime lead, scoring her second goal of the day to tie the game at six. And as has happened so often to the Lions this season, the tide turned dramatically and irreversibly in the opponent’s favor.
On a hot Sunday afternoon with no clouds in the sky, the Light Blue blew their early lead and fell to Dartmouth by a score of 12-9 in the last home game of the year at Baker Field. The loss leaves Columbia with a 1-6 record in Ivy play and cements a last-place finish in the Ancient Eight for a 12th straight season.
If there was one constant in Columbia’s season, it was an inability to take the lead early or hold the lead late. Against Dartmouth, the Light Blue fell behind at the outset, with back-to-back goals by Kat Collins and Chiusano in the first 10 minutes giving the Big Green a quick 2-0 advantage. The teams traded goals over the next 15 minutes before a three-goal run by Columbia, including back-to-back scores by Rachael Ryan in the last game of her collegiate career, gave the Lions a 6-5 lead.
Chiusano’s goal right before time expired erased the brief lead, however, and four consecutive Dartmouth goals after the opening whistle of the second half killed any chance of a second Ivy win for the Light Blue. In four scant minutes, the Big Green, keyed by Chiusano and Collins, turned a 6-6 tie into an insurmountable 10-6 advantage. Not even another two goals by Ryan, again back-to-back, could bring Columbia even again. Collins scored the afternoon’s final tally to carry the game, and Columbia’s season, to an inglorious close.
Senior Day also brought a close to the careers of Ryan, starting goalkeeper Emma Mintz, leading goal scorer Holly Glynn, and Lauren Olsen. Ryan, Glynn, and Olsen have started all 15 games for the Lions this season, and their departure will tax head coach Kerri Whitaker’s attempts to move the Light Blue out of the cellar next season. The four seniors will finish with a 1-20 record in Ivy play over their four years.
As her seniors depart, Whitaker once again will likely face scrutiny for another disappointing conference season. Despite capturing its first Ivy win in four years, Whitaker’s 2009 squad let potential victories against Yale, Brown, and Dartmouth slip through its fingers. It remains to be seen how much patience Athletic Director Dianne Murphy will have for a program that seems to be in a perennial state of rebuilding.
The Lions still have one game left this year, a nonconference matchup with Bucknell on Apr. 28. But win or lose against the Bison, 2009 was another season of close calls and shortcomings. Whether or not Whitaker will get a chance to make up for the lost opportunities in 2010 has yet to be determined.