"We've communicated. We've gotten together right at the very beginning of the year this season," center halfback Rich Hardy said to explain the phenomenal success of the Crimson varsity soccer team. What Hardy failed to say was that much of the credit for that communication goes to him.
As center halfback, Hardy's main responsibility is to coordinate the efforts of the entire team. He must fall back to assist the fullback line, move the ball quickly upfield, and direct the attack of the forwards. Harvard's 7-0 record is an excellent indication of the job he has done.
Throughout the season. coach Bruce Munro has emphasized what he calls "through passing" in practice. In scrimmages, Munro concentrates on the lead passes the halfbacks send through the opposition's defensive line. With powerful kickers like Solomon Gomez and Pete Bogovich on the offensive front, Munro knows that an open shot on the net will probably result in a Crimson goal.
Hardy also acknowledges the importance of the short passing game in the enemy's territory. "You must learn the game of give-and-go, of short on-the-ground passing with a minimum of dribbling." Hardy said.
Hardy feels the team this year is excelling because of this emphasis on team coordination and not because of any single individual's effort. "Two years ago we had the same individual skills but never communicated as one team," he recalled. "Last year we had two or three good sophomores with fine skill but they never quite got together with the older team members.
"This year there is a real balance on the line. The team is much closer and this relation pays off on the field," Hardy explained. "Against Cornell it was great.
We anticipated each other's reactions and the game seemed to go perfectly."
But Cornell is past and all Hardy is thinking of now is Penn. "The last two years, I've always thought the Quakers were better than everyone else. We always looked to them as the team to beat," he said.
Last year Harvard entered the Penn game as the only undefeated team in the Ivy League. After a sound 2-0 thrashing, the Crimson left the field ranking fourth in the Ivy standings. The Quakers also broke a Harvard ten-game unbeaten streak that morning.
Hardy's role in Saturday's match will be crucial, for Penn relies on a short passing game that controls the mid-field play. Also, the Quakers have one of the fastest forward lines Harvard has played against, which indicates that Hardy will have to direct both the front-line attack and aid the Crimson defense.
Hardy, who now resides in Persia, was born of English parents in the village of Ambala in Pakistan. He did not begin playing soccer until he entered school in England.
At Glengyle Preparatory School in London, England. Hardy first learned soccer as a forward. He played center forward, inside right, and right wing for four years before entering St. Paul's School, an institution founded on rugby rather than soccer. Hardy started at wing forward on the rugby team and was vice-captain of the squad.
For two years Hardy has started at center half for the Crimson. Last season coach Munro built his entire game strategy around Hardy and Jaime Vargas in a special 4-2-4 formation that demands extra effort from the halfback "link" line. Hardy and Vargas filled the requirements until both were injured during the middle of the season.
Coach Munro has complete confidence in Hardy's potential. "Richie is having a great season. He has been hustling all the time, and has improved consistently in every game," Munro said. The Penn game would be the perfect time for his best performance.