Women’s soccer to 2-0-3 Ivy with 1-0 win

by Emily Wechsler | 10/26/14 4:40pm

Dartmouth’s road trip to New York, which will continue Monday against Marist College, began in victory Saturday with a 1-0 triumph over Columbia University. Tasha Wilkins ’15 drove a free kick that muscled its way into the net to give Dartmouth the lead in the 19th minute, and the Big Green never let the lead slip away.

Pre-game statistics suggested that this match would be a defensive battle. Dartmouth (5-4-4, 2-0-3 Ivy) had allowed a stingy .67 goals per game, but Columbia (6-3-5, 2-2-1 Ivy) had allowed an average of just .62. The defenses protected their goalkeepers. Tatiana Saunders ’15 needed just six saves, and Columbia sophomore Allison Spencer just four.

Columbia earned the first shot on goal of the game with a header that Saunders picked up in the fourth minute. Dartmouth tallied the next three, including a great volley chance for Lindsay Knutson ’18 that Spencer grabbed. Columbia rounded off the early opportunities with another header attempt.

Saunders shut down several Columbia advances before they became dangerous by playing off of her line. The ball rolled on the fast turf ahead of the Lion athletes, and Saunders scooped it up each time.

“We knew that Columbia liked to play balls through diagonally,” Saunders said. “And in the first half we had the wind against us, so the idea was that the defenders would shield Columbia off and that would allow me to come get the ball because a lot of balls were being carried by the wind straight to the goal.”

In preparation for the game, head coach Ron Rainey said, Dartmouth had worked on techniques for turf play since Dartmouth’s home field is grass.

“We knew this was going to be a game where at times it was going to be a little bit frustrating and there wouldn’t be as much possession or rhythm as we wanted,” Rainey said. “But we had our moments where we did a real good job.”

On one bouncing play, Corey Delaney ’16 drew a foul a few yards above the box and to the right side of the D. Wilkins took the free kick for the Big Green.

The ball curled over Columbia’s four-man wall, toward the right side of the goal, and beyond Spencer’s outstretched left hand into the net. It was the striker’s fourth goal of the season.

Columbia freshman Natalie Neshat had a chance in the 35th minute that Saunders easily covered. This was the only shot on goal for the Lions in the second part of the half.

The second half featured Columbia’s aggression and physicality battling against Dartmouth’s defensive strength. Saunders said the defense had to change its mindset because of the direction of the wind: since the balls would no longer roll to Saunders, the defenders had to play more tightly and communicate more to handle play themselves.

“At times when you’re up 1-0 you defend the lead a little bit,” Rainey said. “I thought that Columbia played better in the second half and we defended a little bit. We did an excellent job clearing balls and doing those types of things. But it took everything we had, all 11 players, from a defensive standpoint, to keep the shutout.”

Columbia put high pressure on Dartmouth to try to tie the game, pushing players forward more than usual, but also had a slightly better possession, Rainey said. Though they were on the more advantageous half, due to the wind, the Lions did not score.

Columbia played a physical game, Saunders said. Wilkins called the match a “scrappy” game. Columbia finished the game with 13 fouls. Dartmouth committed only four.

“At times, we could be a bit more physical ourselves,” Rainey said.

Dartmouth’s last shot on goal was a 71st minute strike from Delaney that Spencer cleared on a diving save.

Columbia finished with a 10-9 edge on shots. The final minutes featured several dangerous positions, including one in which Saunders barely tipped a Columbia free kick over the crossbar.

Yet Dartmouth rode out the full 90 minutes, placing the team second in the Ivy League. The Big Green faces first-place Harvard University in its next and last home game Saturday.

“We did a great job as a team, both attacking and defensively. We defended from the top all the way to the back of the defense so it was really great team defensive effort,” Saunders said.

Marist (2-10-4) plays on artificial turf, so the team will take notes from Saturday’s Columbia match. Dartmouth may also rotate a few more players in because of the quick succession of these two games.

“I think we want to work at looking for times where we can really slow it down and be deliberate in our possession,” Rainey said. “I think if we can do that it will allow more numbers to get forward and possibly give us some more attacking chances with numbers up field. We want to be fast but we also want to get numbers in the box, too.”

The game against Marist kicks off at 5 p.m. tonight in Poughkeepsie, New York, and the game against Harvard is set for 4:30 p.m. at Burnham Field on Saturday.