What's black and white and red all over?
The red-jerseyed University of Massachusetts women's soccer team has a black-and-white hold on the NCAA poll number-two ranking.
Yesterday at Ohiri Field, the Minutewomen left no grey area of doubt as to why they are currently second in the nation. UMass soundly defeated 11th-ranked and previously unbeaten Harvard, 4-0.
The Minutewomen (14-1) lived up to their name--storming the Harvard penalty area with shots that could have rung round the world. UMass fired its way past the Crimson (6-3-1 overall, 1-0-2 Ivy League) in a fast-paced, physical clash between the top two teams in the Eastern Region.
The injury-hampered Crimson squad turned in a gutsy performance, but UMass skillfully cut through Harvard's end with give-and-go passing, high pressure, and efficient midfield play to open space on the wings.
"We always have a tough game against Harvard," UMass Coach Kalekeni Banda said. "I was very pleased to score four goals. It was among the best soccer we played this season. We connected well."
The first connection occured ten minutes into the game, as Minutewoman Catherine Cassady lofted a high cross from the left side and midfielder April Kaler snapped into an explosive header at the far side of the goal to put UMass up, 1-0.
With less than five minutes left to play in the first half, the Minutewomen connected again. U.S. National Team defender and UMass' leading scorer Debbie Belkin settled a chest trap at close range inside the left of Harvard's penalty area, and drove a low half-volley to the opposite corner of the net.
The Crimson answered the brutally effective UMass style of play with flashes of outstanding individual effort, but had difficulty mustering combination play.
"I'm a little dissapointed because I didn't think that we played the best game we could've today. They beat us to the ball," Harvard Coach Tim Wheaton said. "[UMass] is a great team. It's no fluke that they're number two in the nation."
Minutewoman Beth Roundtree broke the silence 15 minutes into the second half to give UMass a 3-goal advantage. Roundtree, who also nailed the game's final tally, finished off a 2-on-1 pass from Catherine Spence with a low instep-drive from close range.
But the loss is only one battle in a season-long war for a post-season playoff bid.
"This doesn't change where we are in the region--the number one team in the region beat the number two team," Wheaton said. "All of our goals and objectives are still there within our reach."
"This was the kind of game we can learn a lot from as we look to the Ivy League Championship and the NCAA tournament--about what we have to do to get where we want to go," Wheaton continued. "The season all comes down to one step at a time, and the next step is Princeton."
The Crimson marches on, battle by battle.
THE NOTEBOOK: The Crimson suffered from the absence of senior starting forward Julie Sasner in the lineup. Sasner was out because of an ankle injury in last weekend's contest with Dartmouth. Prognosis for this Saturday's match is hopeful...Also on the injured reserve list are Amy Winston, Amanda Slick, and Laurie Hauber...The Minutewomen scored more goals against Crimson netminder Tracee Whitlee than all other Harvard opponents combined...Tiger Hunting: Harvard hosts Princeton in an Ivy League match-up Saturday at 11 a.m. at Soldiers Field.
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