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Soccer '77; An Unknown Quantity

Harvard soccer did not enjoy a good year in 1976. After an early season marked by several strong showings and high hopes, the team went on to lose eight straight games en route to a discouraging 2-10-1 finish. This year, things will be better--the only question is by how much.

And it is a very big question. With about half of last season's top players graduated, and the other half returning, there are a lot of gaps to fill, leaving the 1977 edition of Harvard soccer largely an unknown quantity. The absence of experience will not necessarily be bad, though. Says goalkeeper and captain Fred Herold, "It's going to be pretty much of a new team--but that's good after last year."

Herold, a two-year starter in the nets and the eystone of this year's team, has been grinding it away at the Newport, R.I. training camp along with 20 other players since the first week of September. Unlike previous seasons, when conditioning drills were stressed at camp, this year the booters are playing themselves into shape and working more in scrimmages.

"The camp's a time to get our games in shape," Herold said, "and we're having a pretty good time down here, too.

"I think it's really going to help with the season," continued Herold, correcting himself by adding, "I know it will."

If the team does improve, as it surely will, the burden will fall on the returning veterans. Midfield and defense should be the strong points. Senior wing fullbacks Rob Carey and Boyce Greer had to wage battle with what seemed like armies of opposing forwards last season, but with experience and Herold backing them in goal they should anchor a strong defensive line.

Lightning-quick junior Matt Bowyer has started for two campaigns, at positions ranging from sweeper fullback to forward. He will undoubtedly do a solid job wherever coach George Ford plays him, as will sophomore John Sanacore. As a freshman last fall, midfielder Sanacore was one of the few bright spots for the Crimson.

Lee Nelson, a deft passer with an uncanny knack for creating goal-scoring opportunities will also return at midfield, and Hal Martin is another versatile returning player.

Beyond that foundation of returnees, nothing is certain. The front line has been totaled by the loss of Lyman Bullard, Dave Acorn, Eric Zager and George Grassby (to graduation), and Dave Eaton (to a leave of absence). Dave Updike and Tom Hsiao may prove capable fill-ins, but in all likelihood the final lineups will not be set until the team completes a few games.

Coach Ford's squad opens early, perhaps too early, against a reportedly strong Columbia team in New York September 17. Although Ford has his eye out for a couple of freshmen to help fill in the gaps, he will not even get a look at the new players until a few days before the Columbia game.

Although the Crimson handled Columbia in last fall's opener, with so many question marks left no one is overly optimistic. "That game's going to be really tough," said Herold, "because we'll still be forming our team."

And even if the Lions roll over and play dead for the Crimson, the rest of the league is filled with squads that look very nasty, at least on paper. League champion Brown has been among the nation's leaders the last couple of years; Princeton won the last eight games on its schedule and returns everyone, yes everyone, from 1976; and Cornell is perennially tough.

Despite the strength of the opposition, though, things are looking up for Harvard. Herold says that the malaise of defeatism that persisted through last season is gone, and gone for good. Add to the winning spirit the arrival of new assistant coaches Mike Strickland and Kevin Walsh, and you have the makings of a strong team.

Still, very little is certain at this early date. All that's known is that the squad is rounding into shape after camp. As Herold says, "It's been a really good camp so far."

Beyond that, the only sure thing about the Harvard soccer team is that it's on the way up.