Saturday, 1:00 PM
Harvard (10-4-2; 1st – Ivy; WTSR – 1.33, 1st – Ivy)
Central Connecticut State (11-5-4; 3rd – NEC; WTSR – 1.33, Rank – N/A)
Someone Really Likes Central Connecticut State, Huh?
Yeah. Considering the Blue Devils could’ve ended up facing Penn State or even UConn in the first round. Harvard’s no slouch, but things could’ve ended up far worse for CCSU with this draw.
So Do The Blue Devils Have A Chance of Breaking Through and Pulling The Upset?
Hard to say. They’ve really played just a few top tier teams this season. The results weren’t really pretty, with CCSU losing by two goals to both UConn and Saint John’s (NY). At the same time, the Blue Devils posted a pretty impressive 1.33 WTSR rating in NEC play. What that means against an Ivy League opponent is up for debate, but it should at least mean the club has a decent shot at the upset.
If CCSU is Going To Pull That Upset Off, How Are They Going To Do It?
Probably through defense. The Blue Devils have a pretty strong defense by NEC standards. It’s headed up by Swede Jennifer Cafferky, a rookie initially committed to Hawaii a while back who ended up at CCSU instead. It’s been an absolute boon, with the Blue Devils benefitting from a rock at the back who won Defensive Player of the Year honors as a rookie. There’s plenty of other young defensive talent here, with Nicki Turley strong in goal and Brianna Scaldaferri another freshman revelation. They’re going to need the game of their young lives if they’re going to slow down Midge Purce.
Can The Offense Keep Up If Harvard Turns It Into A Slugfest?
I doubt it. Nobody netted more than three goals in the league. Kelly Halligan was that scorer, adding two assists in the bargain but doesn’t seem like the big time scorer the club is going to need to win an offensive fireworks display. Tori Sousa won NEC Player of the Year honors, but she also netted just a single goal on twenty-six shots in the league. Going down would be bad. Going down multiple goals to the Crimson would likely be fatal.
You Were Tipping Harvard to Have A Chance to Get to the College Cup At the Beginning Of The Season, Right?
So What Went Wrong?
A little from column A and a little from column B. The offense wasn’t quite as dominating as most thought it would be, while the defense was only a middle of the road effort in Ivy League play, averaging giving up a goal a game. With hotshot rookie Caroline Chagares missing the whole season through injury on offense and German youth international Marie Becker proving to be much less of a factor on defense than predicted, Harvard’s been more solid than spectacular this season. They were able to win the Ivy League but not by as comfortable a margin as some would’ve thought, while they also lost to all three RPI Top 50 teams they faced this season. It doesn’t exactly fill you with an optimism for a long tournament run.
But They Still Have Midge Purce…
Yeah, and it’s a good thing they do, because there’s not much in the tank besides their super sophomore. Purce hasn’t vaulted herself into superstardom as was perhaps expected before the season, but she’s still the top scorer here by a solid four goals. The U20 World Cup forward for the U.S. netted eight goals this season, including six in the league, though a pair of those were from the penalty spot. Purce’s usage stats aren’t necessarily the best either, and those types of things tend to catch up with teams when the chips are down in November. With nobody else having scored more than four goals on the season, it’s difficult to see where goals are going to come from if Purce isn’t firing true for the Crimson.
Will The Defense Lead Them Forward If The Offense Can’t?
I’m not so sure. They’ve shipped multiple goals in five of sixteen matches. They haven’t kept a clean sheet in their last three matches, including giving up four to Princeton in a wild 5-4 win. The likes of Alika Keene and Bailey Gary have talent, and CCSU’s offense isn’t likely to put consistent pressure on the Crimson, which isn’t likely to provide much comfort in later rounds. Specifically, a second round matchup with UCLA is likely to push the Harvard defense beyond its breaking point.
So, Second Round and Out It Is?
Probably. Then again, if CCSU can find a way to neutralize Purce and keep it tight, they might stand a decent shot of sending Harvard out at the first hurdle. Still, I suspect the Crimson will have enough to prevail.