New England's number-one team of yesterday managed to remain New England's number-one team of today--but not for lack of effort on the part of the Harvard men's soccer team.
The Crimson booters, third-ranked in New England, did their darnedest to shake up the numbers last night at Boston University's Nickerson Field, but ended up falling to the topranked Terriers, 2-1.
"We achieved what we set out to do, in most cases," said Harvard Coach Jape Shattuck, whose squad tallied midway through the second half to cut a two-goal deficit in half, but was unable to pull even before the clock ran out.
The Terriers (now 14-1-2) were ranked sixth in yesterday's Intercollegiate Soccer Association of America (ISAA) Division I national poll, but their number-one regional ranking holds more significance, as far as the Crimson (4-2-3) is concerned.
The top two teams in New England will receive bids to the post-season NCAA tournament. Entering last night's contest, Harvard was ranked behind number-two Yale (8-1-0), but had hoped to prove its mettle with a victory over high-flying B.U.
But after last night's contest, Harvard may be out of the running.
The Elis, who come to Cambridge November 22, will be the booters' final foes of the season. Barring a Yale losing streak--and concomitant Harvard winning streak--that contest will be the Crimson's last and only shot at the NCAAs.
B.U., meanwhile, looks to be a shoo-in for the national tourney. The speedy Terriers beat the booters to the punch last night, putting a pair of goals on the board before Harvard could retaliate.
Two weeks ago, when the two squads first met--a contest eventually called off because of light failure at Nickerson--B.U. also jumped to an early lead. But at last night's make-up, with the lights turned on and a full squad available, Harvard had a chance to work its way back.
In the lights-out game, the Crimson had to make do without leading scorer John Catliff--who was serving a one-game suspension after receiving a red card in the booters' 0-0 tie with Cornell.
In addition, goalie Stephen Hall was still suffering the after-effects of mononucleosis--and Captain Paul Nicholas didn't start due to the tendonitis that has kept him in and out of action all season.
This time around, though, Catliff, Hall and Nicholas were all in the starting line-up. And keeping them company was freshman standout Derek Mills, playing just his second game in a Harvard uniform.
Mills, a native of Glasgow, Scotland, saw some playing time with semi-pro squads in Europe before coming to Harvard, and had to await NCAA sanction to compete intercollegiately here.
Mills was the Crimson's spark-plug in the early going last night, penetrating the Terrier defense and setting up shots for teammates Paul Baverstock and Nick Hotchkin.
Both shots went wide, however--and B.U.'s offense came up with a chance of its own 15 minutes into the game. Terrier junior Ben Okaroh crossed the ball from the corner to Tri-Captain Francis Okaroh, who knocked it past Hall for the first B.U. score.
At 32:08, the hosts struck again on a John Glynn deflection goal.
Harvard finally came through with 18 minutes left in the contest. Mills sent a pass to Ramy Rajballie, who lined the ball toward the net. Crimson freshman Nick D'Onofrio--a midgame substitute for Gian D'Ornellas--who was charging the goal, then headed the ball past Terrier netminder John Moe.
"We were the more creative team out there tonight," Shattuck said, "the more inventive team. We were more dominating territorially and with possessions. As a result, their attack was limited to counter-attacks."
"But those counter-attacks were scary," Shattuck added, "because they have three or four guys with real outstanding speed."
One of those speedy characters, forward Mike Emenaldo, was ejected from the game with 12:37 remaining. Emenaldo had been issued a pair of yellow cards earlier in the contest.
Despite Harvard's creative performance, it will have to wait until Saturday--when it hosts Brown at Ohiri Field--to capture a victory.