Nine seconds. Only nine seconds were left on the clock when Crimson defender Lizzy Nichols ’10 kicked the game-winning penalty shot to the back of the net in double overtime. The 109-minute-51-second thriller against Columbia on Saturday (Nov. 8) clinched the Ivy League title for Harvard, who started the day in a three-way-tie for first place with Columbia and Princeton.
Saturday’s match-up was nothing short of epic, with a script written to perfection. The Crimson’s last loss was on Sept. 27 against Penn; Columbia’s only road loss of the season came in double overtime to Seton Hall Sept. 14. Harvard entered the game with an 18-3-1 all-time record against the Lions, but Columbia won the last two match-ups against the Crimson. And even though Harvard has been driven all season by 2007 Ivy Rookie of the Year Katherine Sheeleigh ’11 and 2008 Ivy Rookie of the Year front-runner Melanie Baskind ‘12, the Lions boasted a few playmakers of their own, including Ivy League Player of the Year front-runner Sophie Reiser.
After a slow start by both teams, Harvard got out to a 1-0 lead on a Columbia defensive breakdown when Christina Hagner ’10 found the net for a team-high six goals this season.
The Crimson played lockdown defense for much of the game, particularly freshman midfielder Hana Taiji, who rendered Reiser (tied for the Ivy lead in goals) scoreless.
Coming out of the half, Columbia fired back at Harvard with an equalizing goal to tie the game at one. Spoiled opportunities by both teams kept the game deadlocked and forced overtime.
Turning it up another notch, the Harvard defense did not allow a single shot in the first overtime period, and only allowed two in the second. The Crimson, on the other hand, targeted the Lions goal eight times in the two periods.
Then, with nine seconds remaining in the second overtime, Columbia, overpowered by the Harvard offense, buckled. As Baskind maneuvered past multiple Columbia players, darting forward straight into the box, the freshman was taken out by a Columbia player, and the Crimson was awarded the soon-to-be game-winning penalty shot.
As Nichols lined up for the kick, a temporary hush lay over the field; it lasted until Nichols powered the ball past the Lions goalie for the game and Ivy-championship-clinching-goal. A mob of Crimson fans and players erupted in cheers and invaded Ohiri Field to celebrate. The win marked Harvard’s first Ivy title in 10 seasons, and the team’s first NCAA tournament appearance under second-year coach Ray Leone.
“Ever since the day they started, they have laid it on the line,” said Leone, gleaming with infectious joy. “I can’t be happier for them.”
Baskind, who was named Ivy Rookie of the Week for the second time this season, also praised her team. “It’s nice to have something to show for all the hard work we put in every day. We come to practice … and give everything we have. And to have something tangible is amazing.”
On Nov. 10, it was announced that Boston College will host the first round NCAA game against Northeastern tomorrow (Nov.14). Two days later the winner will face either Boston College (BC) (13-5-2) or Central Connecticut State (12-6-4). Earlier this season, the Crimson defeated Northeastern, 2-1, in overtime (Sept. 17), and, two days later, tied BC 1-1.