Harvard men's soccer Coach Mike Getman and his posse of Crimson booters will be riding into Death Valley this weekend for a game of Cowboys and Indians.
The high-riding Crimson (14-0-3) will come out shooting against the San Diego St. Aztecs (19-5-0) on Riggs Field in Clemson, S.C., in the NCAA semifinals today.
But Harvard is a little wary of its Southern sojourn. The last time the Crimson played in the Carolinas--the 1986 tournament--Duke shot down Harvard, 3-1.
And the Crimson should be prepared to face another firing squad. As members of the top-ranked and sole repeat team in the Final Four, the booters will be marked men.
"[San Diego St.] has two forwards that are very dangerous and very skillful and will take you on and go to goal," Getman said. "They're solid defending; they're a very solid team."
The Aztecs get their scoring punch from the frontfield combination of junior Kyle Whittemore and freshman Eric Wynalda. Whittemore has 17 goals and five assists for a team-high 35 points, while Wynalda has 11 goals and 11 assists for 33 points.
"The other three teams seem to have come on at the end of the season," senior midfielder Nick Hotchkin said. "They have really proven that they can play good soccer."
San Diego St. defeated UCLA, 2-1, in the quarterfinals to advance to this weekend's action. It was the Aztecs' third meeting of the season with UCLA, and its first win over the Bruins in 19 years.
Meanwhile, North Carolina has a nine-game winning streak, and Clemson's only late-season loss came to the Tar Heels in the Atlantic Coast Conference playoffs. The two teams meet in today's second semifinal.
But Harvard, the only undefeated team in the nation, looks like the favorite in the tourney. The Crimson will bring consistency, experience and control into today's contest.
"We're good enough to direct the tempo of the game when we're playing well," Hotchkin said. "A lot will depend on how we get out there and play."
If Harvard plays anything like it did in last Sunday's 3-0 blanking of Adelphi, San Diego St. will have a tough time holding off the Crimson attack. Aztec goalie Bryan Finnerty, who has a .840 goals-against-average and seven shutouts, will have to face top Harvard scorers Dave Kramer (11 goals, two assists for 25 points), Paul Baverstock (7-3--17) and Nick D'Onofrio (7-1--15).
"All we can do is go down there and be disciplined," Hotchkin said. "We have to be very solid in our defending."
Junior Stephen Hall, who hasn't allowed a goal in tournament action, will be minding the nets for the Crimson. Backfielders Robert Bonnie and Andy Dale, both of whom injured a knee last weekend, expect to be back for the contest.
"We're confident in knowing that we can do down there and win two games," Dale said.