Harvard Downs No. 17 NC State, Car Ride Before Taking Care of Home Business | Sports
There was no shortage of heat in North Carolina this past weekend as temperatures hit the 80s and the Crimson came in strong against University of North Carolina Greensboro and State from North Carolina. While the weather turned cold by the time they returned home to face Long Beach State on Thursday, Harvard didn’t and hasn’t since. The Crimsons are now off to a 5-0 start for the first time since 1996.
“Going down to North Carolina, we knew we would be tested,” head coach Chris Hamblin said, with the most obvious challenge being No. 17 NC State.
The Crimson dominated UNC Greensboro en route to a 4-0 win on Friday, September 2, before a stellar 2-0 performance to put the highly anticipated NC State on their home turf. After last weekend, Harvard reached 20/22nd in the United Soccer Coaches and Top Drawer Soccer ranking polls, respectively, ahead of their 2-0 win over Long Beach State.
“It was a good team win,” Hamblin said, referring to the NC State game. “For us, being able to start strong was really important for us, because belief is such an important part of that process, and the team believed that they could play anyone in the country, and we were able to show up. and get the Job done. I think we were the best team on the day and deserved the result.
The Crimson (5-0-0, 0-0 Ivy League) came into Thursday’s contest prepared for a terrific matchup of Long Beach State (1-3-3, 0-0 Big West), with Hamblin pointing to the recent an LBSU goal loss to No. 15/18 University of Southern California and their sensational and viral bicycle kick goal by senior forward Lena Silano in the 88th minute against the University of San Diego.
However, the Crimsons quickly welcomed their opponent to Cambridge and silenced any hype surrounding Long Beach State as sophomore midfielder Hannah Bebar struck early in the seventh minute on a cross from the second-year forward Ainsley Ahmadian to go up 1-0. Harvard rode and never looked back, with Bebar striking again in the 81st minute, this time helped by senior striker Angela Caloia and senior midfielder Hannah Griffin, for some insurance in the 2- 0. Harvard dominated on both sides of the ball, with the defense holding LBSU to just four shots the entire game. Crimson senior goaltender Hannah Gardner made two saves for the shutout.
In what was both expected and proven to be the most exciting and important game of the season so far, Harvard came out strong from the start against the Wolfpack (4-1-1, 0-0 Atlantic Coast) .
“I think overall, as a team [we] flew out,” Ahmadian said.
In the 31st minute, Ahmadian’s shot found the back of the net on Bebar’s cross and the Crimson took a 1-0 lead. Meanwhile, Harvard’s defense staged a clinic, limiting NC State to just six shots the entire game. Junior defenseman Taylor Fasnacht, junior defenseman Smith Hunter, senior defenseman Lara Schenk and senior captain Jordan Di Verniero all recorded over eighty minutes, with Schenk and Hunter remaining in all games, blocking NC State’s offense and destroying all hope of return. Junior goaltender Anna Karpenko earned her first career shutout with two saves, and the Crimson limited the Wolfpack to zero corner kick opportunities from ten.
“I think our defenders have just come out with one of the best mentalities I’ve ever seen from them,” Ahmadian said.
Just five minutes into the second half, Ahmadian gave Harvard a cushion when they split the defense and fired a laser into the top right corner from over twenty-five yards out, which easily passed NC State goaltender Maria Echezarreta.
“One of the things we talked about before the game was making sure we pay attention to all the details, all the little things that go into a good performance,” Hamblin said. “I think the team executed incredibly well on both sides of the ball… I was really proud of how they rose to the challenge against a top 25 team and made a statement.”
Two days before the game against NC State, the Crimsons lit up the stat sheet against the Spartans (2-2-1, 0-0 Southern Conference) once they arrived in North Carolina. Goals from Ahmadian, freshman forward Audrey Francois, sophomore midfielder Nicola Golen and junior midfielder Megan Mackey highlighted the dominating victory over UNC Greensboro. The defense held firm behind Schenk’s team record 78 minutes and Gardner’s four saves for the shutout. Ahmadian and Francois received the Ivy League Player of the Week and Rookie of the Week awards, respectively, after their performances on the road trip.
Reflecting on the trip to North Carolina, both Ahmadian and Hamblin acknowledged the team’s strong start but remained focused on the future and continued improvement of the team.
“I think for us it’s a matter of consistency. It’s about focusing on who we are, what we’re trying to do and improving our game rather than worrying about the opponent,” explained Hamblin. “I’m just really excited about the group and where we are, and we’ve gotten off to a good start, but I think we still have some other gear that we can find, and so we’re excited to try and work towards that. .
Harvard plays at home again this Sunday, hosting in-state rivals University of Massachusetts Amherst (1-2-3, 0-0 Atlantic Ten) at 1 p.m., looking to build on their momentum and undefeated start.