Women's Soccer Nips Harvard, 4-3

Box Score (PDF)

PHILADELPHIA - In Harvard and Penn, you are looking at the last three Ivy League champions in women's soccer. The Quakers won it in 2007, while the Crimson grabbed a share of the title in 2008 before taking it outright in 2009.

On Friday night at the Quakers' Rhodes Field, the teams combined for a dramatic classic that had a boisterous home crowd on the edge of its seat almost from start to finish.

In the end, Penn overcame deficits twice in the first half, relinquished a halftime lead, but recovered with a brilliant goal that stood up as the Red and Blue knocked off the defending champion Crimson, 4-3.

The match was the Ivy League opener for both squads; Penn improved to 4-3-0 overall, while Harvard fell to 2-4-1. In addition, the win was Penn head coach Darren Ambrose's 100th overseeing the Quaker program.

This marked the first time Penn has won an Ivy League game it played in which seven or more goals were scored. The last time Penn and an Ivy opponent hooked up for at least seven goals in a game was Nov. 1, 1997 when Yale beat the Quakers, 4-3. For Penn and Harvard, however, this was merely a continuation of last year's goalfest up in Cambridge, an affair won by Harvard, 3-2.

Ursula Lopez-Palm was the hero for Penn. She scored twice, once to start the scoring and a second time to finish it.

"Believe it or not, she told me before the game that she was going to score," said head coach Ambrose, visibly relieved afterward. "I don't know if she felt confident because she has scored against them before, but she said it and then she went out and did it.

"This was a great result for us," he continued. "We showed a lot of resilience, especially in the first half -- every time Harvard went up, we were quick to answer. Harvard is a great side, with great players up front, and so to get a win is a great start in the League."

Harvard's Katherine Sheeleigh is a three-time first-team All-Ivy selection, and she was every bit of that on Friday. She opened the scoring when a ball deep in Penn territory was fumbled, and she went around a defender to collect it and pot a shot past goalkeeper Caroline Williams.

The lead lasted only 1:13, however, as a Penn free kick was headed on goal from about six yards out by Lopez-Palm. Harvard goalie Jessica Wright was unsuccessful trying to push it over the crossbar, and when it hit the ground Lopez-Palmescaped the pack to hammer it into the goal.

Harvard went back up in the 22nd minute when Sheeleigh raced down the left side and, after her initial cross came back to her, slotted a ball right to the feet of Melanie Baskind. The junior was true on the finish.

Although it took a little more time this time around, Penn again answered. Sarah Friedman pushed a beautiful through ball thas caughtMarin McDermottin stride, andthejunioreasily beat Wright for the tie. The goal was McDermott's first this season; for Friedman, the assist was her second this season and 24th career. She now needs one more to tie Katy Cross as the program's all-time leader in that category.

Penn took its first lead with 4:32 to play in the half. A Quaker cross from the right side was played out by Harvard, but the ball went straight to Erin Beck and she fired a shot over Wright's head into the left side of the goal from about 25 yards out. It was Beck's second goal this season, and gave the Red and Blue a 3-2 lead at the break.

"I told the girls at the half, we were going to need another goal," said Ambrose. "Harvard is where they are in our League because they don't give up, and they didn't tonight."

Sure enough, as the match approached the hour mark Sheeleigh and Baskind teamed up again -- this time a Sheeleigh cross from the right was easily put home by Baskind directly in front of the cage.

Penn looked like it might take a lead with about 22 minutes left when McDermott squirted loose in the Harvard area, but her shot was pushed wide by Wright. However, less than two minutes later the winner came --and what a winner. Lopez-Palm chased down a ball from Theresa Yankovich in the Harvard box, and with a defender closing on her she turned toward the goal and unleashed a left-footed rocket from about 10 yards that soared over Wright's shoulder and into the top of the netting just inside the near post. That touched off a wild celebration on the Penn sideline.

From there, Williams took care of business. She finished the night with seven saves, and was a presence in the air on several crosses and throw-ins throughout the match but especially down the stretch. Wright had two saves for Harvard.

Penn returns to action Sunday, hosting Navy at noon on Rhodes Field.

Download: Penn07 (Harvard).pdf