Crimson Snatches Ivy Title

Dartmouth College goalkeeper Casey Cousineau (0) and teammate Lucielle Kozlov (13) scramble to keep up with Harvard's Elizabeth Weisman during the teams' Ivy League game Saturday in Boston. The Crimson's 2-1 victory produced its fourth Ivy League title in the last six years. Valley News - Tris Wykes

Dartmouth College goalkeeper Casey Cousineau (0) and teammate Lucielle Kozlov (13) scramble to keep up with Harvard's Elizabeth Weisman during the teams' Ivy League game Saturday in Boston. The Crimson's 2-1 victory produced its fourth Ivy League title in the last six years. Valley News - Tris Wykes Purchase photo reprints »

Boston — The Dartmouth College women’s soccer team experienced an Ivy League title trophy presentation Saturday. Unfortunately for the Big Green, it was arch-rival Harvard that received the Bessie H. Rudd Cup, its players cheering and shouting while their somber foes stretched in a circle nearby.

Harvard’s 2-1 victory earned the Crimson its fourth league crown in the past six years. A perennial position atop the Ivies was once Dartmouth’s domain, but the Big Green hasn’t won an Ancient Eight title since 2001, when it captured its third championship in four years and its fourth in six seasons.

Dartmouth coach Theresa Romagnolo knew her players didn’t enjoy watching Harvard’s celebration. But the third-year bench boss also hoped they might remember the scene — and want to experience it from the other side next season.

“I like them to see it,” Romagnolo said. “At least they’ve seen what the trophy looks like and maybe it will motivate them for the future.”

The present isn’t as enjoyable as Romagnolo and her troops had anticipated. Dartmouth was 13-4 overall and 6-1 in the Ivies last year, good for a second-place finish and a huge improvement over a 4-12 mark in 2011. This fall, however, the Big Green has stumbled to 7-6-3 and 3-3 records, a downturn Romagnolo attributes to injuries.

“We haven’t had the best players playing all at the same time,” the coach said. “There have been times during the season where you can see that we’re better than last year’s team, but last year’s lineup didn’t change. We had the same starting 11 for 17 games. I think we’ve had that once or twice this year.”

Senior midfielders Kim Rose and Chrissy Lozier missed part of the season, sophomore defender Kelly Bach was lost for the rest of it after seven games and junior forward Tasha Wilkins, junior defender Laura Thurber and sophomore defender Kristen Vondrak haven’t played at all.

Romagnolo hasn’t stood pat. On Saturday, Lozier and standout senior forward Emma Brush each spent significant time on the bench and Rose and senior midfielder Marina Moschitto, who each entered with 12 starts this fall, were used as reserves.

In addition, junior goalkeeper Tatiana Saunders, who started for the 14th time this season, was pulled at halftime in favor of freshman Casey Cousineau because Romagnolo judged her to have misplayed two balls, one of which led to Harvard’s second tally.

“I was happy with the second half,” said Romagnolo, whose team was outshot, 12-1, during the initial 45 minutes and 18-12 during the game. “In the first half, either they were just that much better than us or we weren’t ready.”

Dartmouth had few answers for Harvard forward Midge Purce. The freshman from Maryland dribbled through nearly the entire Big Green team from beyond midfield for the Crimson’s first goal and was a threat almost every time she touched the ball. Purce, whose given name is Margaret, helped the U.S. U17 national team qualify for that level’s 2012 World Cup.

“She has world-class speed in (1-on-1) situations and the ability to finish,” Romagnolo said. “I moved people around and we were tighter on her in the second half.”

After Purce opened the scoring in the 20th minute, Harvard pushed its lead to 2-0 when the rookie passed up the left wing to Peyton Johnson, who chipped the ball over a charging Saunders 10 minutes before intermission. Dartmouth broke onto the scoreboard when defender Kelly Brait, stationed at the back post, headed home a Corey Delaney corner kick.

The play “kind of surprised me because the ball has to pass like six people before it gets to me,” said Brait, a senior who notched her first collegiate goal. “I was in the right place at the right time.

“We really gained momentum after we scored and we created a lot more opportunities and more feistiness. I thought we could have put another one away.”

Dartmouth hosts Cornell next weekend in its season finale. Harvard improved to 11-3-2 and 6-0 and after starting the season 0-3, extended its unbeaten streak to 13 games. The Crimson lead the teams’ series, 18-15-3, and avenged a 2-0 loss in Hanover last year.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com or 603-727-3227.