Women's Soccer

Syracuse staves off Harvard’s late-game push in 1-0 victory

Alexandra Moreo | Photo Editor

SU head coach Phil Wheddon was upset with the referee's late-game decision to award Harvard with a free kick. But Syracuse made the stop and pushed the ball upfield before the clock ran out.

Trailing by a goal with four minutes left, Harvard began to pressure Syracuse. Lauren Raimondo fired a shot that SU goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan tipped over the net. The ensuing corner kick came in from Brosnan’s left. She caught the ball, falling to the ground before getting up.

Then the Crimson got what they wanted. As Brosnan rose, a referee walked up to her and took the ball away. He planted it at the top of the box and awarded Harvard a free kick. Brosnan smiled and didn’t say a word. Phil Wheddon did.

In rapid succession, with his arms in the air, he yelled “This is disgraceful. This is terrible. They’re making a mockery of this.”

Harvard’s Leah Mohammadi lined up and fired the ball toward the net. The ball smacked the top crossbar and bounced away. Syracuse was able to clear out the late threat and pushed the ball past midfield. Harvard earned a deep free kick shortly after but had just 20 seconds. Mohammadi’s shot hit off Sydney Brackett as Syracuse (5-2-1) downed Harvard (4-2-0) 1-0 on Sunday afternoon at SU Soccer Stadium.

Wheddon had never seen a free kick awarded for what he called “gamesmanship.” He said Brosnan was trying to push her defenders back before clearing the ball. Harvard coach Chris Hamblin complained to referees many times about Taylor Bennett slowly setting up for a free kick or the Orange not hurrying to throw the ball in-bounds. Late in the game, the officials responded.

In the 82nd minute, one of the referees looked toward the Syracuse sideline and told the team, “we aren’t going to do this for eight more minutes.”

“Every team that we play against, if we’re down in the last few minutes they’re taking time off the clock in any way that they can. It’s called gamesmanship and I think sometimes it gets to all of us,” Wheddon said. “I wasn’t particularly happy with it especially because that gave them a great goal-scoring opportunity. Had they tied the game at that point it would have been very annoying for all of us.”

Brosnan finished with six saves, posting her 18th career shutout. She said calls like the free kick are ones the team can’t control, but it’s about how they respond.

Despite the complaints from Harvard’s sideline, Syracuse won the possession battle for most of the game. The Orange played the ball on the wings and initiated offense in the middle of the field, generating 13 shots. None went in, but the Crimson scored on itself trying to clear a ball away from SU’s Kate Hostage.

“We’re slipping balls through seams, in between them. We’re creating one-on-ones, we’re creating … long-range shots,” Wheddon said. “The shot selection might not be right or the execution might not be right, there might be someone in a better position. Those are just things that we’ll look at.”

Despite the verbal scuffles with the referees and an unconventional goal, Syracuse was able to produce nine corner kicks, a season high. Brosnan closed it out with saves that Wheddon said separate her from other goalkeepers at the collegiate level.

“I wish she wouldn’t tip the ball over the bar and give up corner kicks. That makes me feel a little bit older,” he said with a smirk. “Courtney is one of the best goalkeepers in the country and I firmly believe that … she’s good with her feet, she’s great with her hands … I expect Courtney to make the saves she’s supposed to make, then come up with a few big ones here and there.”

Brosnan’s late-game performance squashed a potential Harvard comeback and despite the referee’s response to Syracuse’s late-game pace, Wheddon said the Orange won’t change its approach in those circumstances.

“I’d never seen what happened today, and I’ve been in all sorts of competitions all around the world,” Wheddon said. “But there’s a first time for everything. I think we’ll be more mindful.”


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