The season finale—an evenly matched, shutout loss decided by one goal—was an accurate representation of the struggle, persistence, and determination the Lions consistently demonstrated this year.
On Saturday, the Columbia women’s soccer team (6-10-1, 3-3-1 Ivy) fell to Harvard 1-0 to conclude its 2011 season. With the win, the Crimson (12-4-1, 6-0-1 Ivy) earned full rights to the Ivy League title. The Light Blue tied with Brown for fourth place in the conference.
“The effort was there. We played some excellent soccer at times, created chances, limited their opportunities, and against a team that is unbeaten in about 10 games, we had an excellent match and put ourselves in position to get the result,” head coach Kevin McCarthy said. “But when you’re a team that is winning a lot of games, it’s often those little things—like that extra confidence and the intangibles—that help you. We’re a team that’s had to battle and fight for everything, and the good fortune that comes with the confidence of being on a win streak like they had might have been the difference.”
There was little action until midway through the first half. In the 21st minute, Harvard freshman midfielder Meg Casscells-Hamby sent a pass to freshman midfielder Lauren Urke in the Columbia box, and Urke finished to put the Crimson on the board first. Urke almost doubled Harvard’s lead with 12 minutes remaining in the first half, but senior goalkeeper and co-captain Lillian Klein made a leaping save to deny the goal.
The next close opportunity from either team came in the 37th minute from senior forward and co-captain Ashlin Yahr. Saturday marked Yahr’s last chance to break the record of all-time career goals scored—she needed just one more goal to match Tosh Forde’s tally of 30. Yahr sent a close-range shot on-frame, but Crimson freshman goalkeeper Bethany Kanten tipped the ball away.
Minutes before halftime, Harvard senior forward Melanie Baskind fired a shot that just grazed the post and bounced out of play. At the break, the Crimson held the advantage in shots, 7-6, with both teams tallying three corners apiece.
Neither team had an easy time gaining the offensive edge as the second half progressed. Sophomore midfielder Natalie Melo nearly evened the game at one in the 51st minute, but her chance was foiled by Kanten, who preserved Harvard’s shutout.
Scoring opportunities were scarce for the remainder of the game, despite the Light Blue tallying another four corners in the second half. Both teams finished with 10 shots apiece.
“Against a very dangerous attacking team, it may have been the best we’ve played without the ball all year,” McCarthy said. “For the entire second half, they didn’t have a good look at goal, they didn’t have any shots that were of any threat, and I don’t think they had any attacking restarts or corner kicks. Our defense just closed it down. Lillian takes a lot of pride in how the team plays in front of her, and she was especially proud of our defenders in how they performed.”
The Light Blue co-captains led the team. Yahr finished with a team-high four shots, with Klein doing her part by recording four saves. Yahr finished her career sitting one goal behind the all-time school record of 30.
“Ashlin’s effort as usual was excellent, if not sublime at times,” McCarthy said. “Their defensive posture was a clear indication of the kind of respect she gets as a player. They never failed to keep four players back and boxed her in very often. One of the ironic things about the game was that our players were so eager to see Ashlin score, that even more so than we usually do, we were really looking to pass to her early when another pass might have opened up their defense a bit more and actually created more space for her. But I certainly can’t fault our players for wanting to see Ashlin succeed.”
This 2011 finale marks the last game in the careers of seven seniors: tri-captains forward Ashlin Yahr, defender/midfielder Lindsay Mushett, and goalkeeper Lillian Klein, forward Marissa Schultz, midfielder Nora Dooley, defender Megan Gallivan, and forward/midfielder Liz Wicks.
“With the exception of Lindsay who was injured, they all had a chance to play, a chance to contribute,” McCarthy said. “They are a fine group of women who have done a lot for this program. We value all of their unique contributions and we will certainly miss them. But we’re also eager to move forward as the cycle continues and see our leadership develop and our younger players rise up.”