The women’s soccer team split two close Ivy League games this past week, falling to Harvard at home but rallying to beat Cornell on the road. The Tigers lost a battle to capture a share of first place against Harvard the Saturday before last by a final score of 5-4, but bounced back against Cornell on Friday, winning 2-1. The Tigers (6-5-3 overall, 3-2-1 Ivy League), are in third place in the Ivy League, close behind Harvard (9-4-2, 4-1-1) and Dartmouth (7-4-4, 3-0-3) in the league standings.
Princeton’s two leading scorers, sophomore forward Tyler Lussi and senior defender Lauren Lazo, combined to score all six Tiger goals in the two games, moving even higher on the Princeton all-time career scoring standings. They were assisted by three budding freshmen — forward Beth Stella, defender Natalie Larkin and midfielder Vanessa Gregoire — who assisted on a combined five of the six goals.
“We really played together as a team, and it was really great to get the win against Cornell,” Lussi said.
“The freshmen are incredible,” she added. "They come out every game determined to move the ball and connect as a team. It’s incredible to watch them play. They’re growing more determined each game.”
The game against Harvard started with a Lussi goal at 1:18 assisted by Larkin and Gregoire. The Tigers managed to outplay the Crimson during the first half, scoring against the defensive powerhouse that has dominated the League this season.
“We were moving the ball around really well. We dominated the first half of the [Harvard] game,” said Lussi. “It was really great to be on our home field with all our fans. I love playing at home with pride for both the school and the team. We were relaxed going in, knowing that we wanted to win. It didn’t come out that way, but our home field is a special place where we always strive to do better.”
Harvard midfielder Bethany Kanten led the Crimson push that gave Harvard a 2-1 lead, first assisting midfielder Dani Stollar on a goal then scoring a goal on her own in the 44th and the 47th minutes of the game, respectively. Lussi then pushed through the league-leading Harvard defense again to score two more goals, assisted by Stella on one and Gregoire and Stella on the other. Harvard then notched two more goals to take the lead — the first scored by forward Joan Fleischman with assists from forward Margaret Purce and defense Erika Garcia, and the second scored by Kanten off a corner kick.
Lussi completed her first career brace in the 76th minute by heading in a corner kick from Gregoire, tying the game, matching Princeton’s record for single-game points (eight) and goals (four) and breaking the Tiger record for most goals scored through a player’s freshman and sophomore years. Gregoire became the first player in four years to have three assists in one game, continuing what has been a successful freshman season.
“Soccer is a team sport. An individual never scores without support from other players, coaches and the whole program. The Harvard game was the best we’ve played so far this season, and I wouldn’t have been able to score those goals without everyone else." Lussi said. She also attributed her performance to her younger brother, Morgan Lussi, who scored four goals and three assists in his own high school soccer game the day before.
Princeton's sophomore goalkeeper Hannah Winner made her second career start, her first against another Ivy League team. Winner managed two saves, but Harvard’s Purce scored the final game-ending goal in the 80th minute on a penalty kick. Winner slid in to contain the ball, but Purce got to the ball first and tripped over Winner, with Harvard consequently being awarded a penalty kick that turned into the goal.
“It was disappointing to lose, but I was really proud of the effort we made,” Lussi said.
The game against Cornell was slightly less eventful, with a Princeton win despite the Big Red outshooting the Tigers 14-6 overall and 6-2 on goal. Senior goalkeeper Darcy Hargadon played the entire game, managing five saves. Lazo scored the first goal of the game in a crossing pass from sophomore defender Jesse McDonough in the 10th minute. Cornell midfielder/forward Kerry Schubert tied the score seven minutes later, and the Big Red managed to keep the score tied through first half. The Tigers pulled ahead for good in the 56th minute on a Lussi goal assisted by Lazo and Gregoire.
“We’ve played incredibly well,” said Lussi. “It was really tough coming off of Harvard, and we fought our hearts out. It was wet and cold at Cornell, but we fought through it and played together as a team.”
With this week’s games, Lazo and Lussi impressively sit in fifth and sixth place on Princeton’s all-time career goals list with 26 and 27, respectively. Lussi has scored 16 of her goals this season, placing her in third on Princeton’s all-time list for most goals scored in a single season. Meanwhile, Lazo has the second-most assists of any player in Princeton history, and Lazo and Lussi also sit in fifth and ninth places for total number of career points, with 78 and 57, respectively.
The Tigers have one league game left and still have a shot at finishing the season in first place in the Ivy League. If the Tigers win against Penn (7-5-3, 2-3-1) while both Dartmouth and Harvard lose, the Tigers could be looking at a championship title.
“We’re really going to have to rise to the challenge,” said Lussi. “We might still have a share of the title if everything works in our favor.” As head coach Julie Shackford’s 20th and final season comes to a close, Lussi said, “What we really want is to do well enough to get invited to the NCAA tournament and do something special for [Shackford]. We want to give her a going-away present and end on a positive note.”