The Harvard soccer team faces Southern Connecticut State College at the Business School Field today at 1:30 p.m. in the first round of the NCAA New England Regional play-offs. Harvard is ranked first in New England with a season record of 10-1, while Southern Connecticut is ranked tenth with a 7-4-1 mark.
Southern Connecticut was selected for the playoffs after four teams with a higher ranking declined to participate in the tournament. The two teams had only one opponent in common in the 1971 season--Harvard beat Wesleyan, 6-1, while the Owls lost to them, 2-1.
But coach Bruce Munro feels that Southern Connecticut will be stronger than their record would indicate. "They're a good little soccer team, and they've played a rough schedule. They're well-drilled and play the same type of short passing game that we do," he said.
The main scoring threat for the Owls is Fred Rossi, who kicked 13 goals during the regular season.
Munro held practice on Sunday as well as on Monday, and he was concentrating on working out midfield combinations. Going into the game Norie Harrower will be teamed with Russ Bell, and Emanuel Ekama will be working with Bahman Mossavar-Rahmani.
Control of midfield is the key to Harvard's short passing game, and Munro will try other combinations in the game if these pairings prove ineffective.
Phil Kydes, Rick Scott and Chris Wilmot were kept out of the scrimmage on Sunday, but they will be ready for today's game. Phil Axten is physically fit for the first time since his concussion six weeks ago, but he will probably need two weeks of practice to regain top form.
Southern Connecticut operates out of a 4-2-4 formation. "We can adjust easily from a man-to-man defense to a zone, and we'll shift into whatever seems best during the game." Southern Connecticut coach Robert Dikranian said. "Most teams have one or two players you should key on, but Harvard has five or six."
"Harvard's individual skill level is much higher than ours, and if those guys could learn to play together, and if they could stay in reasonably good physical shape, they would have a championship team," Dikranian said.
"But Harvard lacks good combination play, and against teams like Penn and Hartwick that have the same caliber of individual skill, you need team skill to win," he added.
Since both teams play the same type of game, bad weather conditions should not give either an advantage. The varsity field was covered with a tarpaulin before Sunday's snowfall, but unless the snow melts the grounds crew will be unable to remove the trap. In that case, the game will be played on the freshman field.
In the other New England regional playoff today, fifth-ranked Brown (5-5-2) hosts second-ranked Bridgeport (11-5-0) at Providence.
The winners of the two games will meet in the regional finals next Tuesday.
Harvard played Southern Connecticut in the first round of the NCAA two years ago and won, 5-0.