Let All Old Seasons Be Forgot
As far as rookie Harvard men's soccer Coach Mike Getman is concerned, the Crimson's NCAA Final Four appearance last season belongs to the misty world of the Loch Ness Monster, the Yeti and the Snuffleupagus.
"I'm approaching the whole thing as if it didn't happen," the former Indiana assistant coach said. "If we're as good as last year, that's great...if not, well, that's last year."
But while Getman isn't willing to make any predictions based on last year's 11-4-4 performance, he's aware that the team that's "0-0 right now" and "ready to start over" won't be starting from scratch.
Gone are star forward John Catliff, who scored 83 points in his Crimson career, three-time All-Ivy midfielder and '86 Captain Paul Nicholas, and starting defenseman Miles Welch--an impressive group, by all means.
But the list of returnees is just as impressive, if not more so.
There's Derek Mills, who notched 14 goals and four assists in only 11 games last season to top the Crimson scoring list in his freshman campaign. Getman terms him an "impact player" with the abililty to "take over the game and really make his mark."
And senior Nick Hotchkin, whose 20 points last season as a starting midfielder gives him a team-leading 40 for his career. Hotchkin's speed is one of the big reasons why "other teams will have trouble containing [Harvard's] quickness," according to Getman. Also returning in the midfield is junior Ramy Rajballie, a two-year starter who should be a key performer for the Crimson.
Captain Mark Pepper brings talent and experience to the sweeper position, and is a player Getman terms "a strong solid athlete who will make an excellent leader."
And the list of veterans is headed up by not one, but two outstanding goalies--juniors Stephen Hall and Chad Reilly. Hall is a talented European player who started four games for a 1.25 goals-against average before bowing out due to illness. Reilly, a walk-on two years ago and back-up as of September, by December found himself sparking the squad's Final Four drive.
"I didn't know what to expect," said Reilly of last year's sudden promotion to starting goalie. "But the opportunity got my confidence up."
Getman has not yet decided upon his starters for Wednesday's opener at MIT, and maintains that all the players have to "earn their positions throughout the season."
The first five games will certainly be a testing ground for the entire team, with the 10th-ranked Crimson facing a pair of teams noted in the Soccer Association of America's preseason poll.
After MIT, Harvard opens its Ivy slate with an away match-up at Columbia. Perennially a strong team, the Lions will be looking to regain the league title it lost, for the first time in eight years, last year. The Crimson--which finished second in the Ancient Eight behind Yale--had a hand in the Lions' downfall in '86, pulling off an early-season 4-1 shocker on the strength of a quartet of Catliff goals.
Following the Columbia contest, Harvard takes a road trip to Connecticut before returning home to host Brandeis and seventh-ranked Hartwick.
"I think we'll know our potential pretty quickly," Getman said. "We have a very quick offense-minded group of people; the question mark is whether we can come together as a team."
The players feel that team unity has been shaping up in the last several practices--and, although Getman may claim not to care, last year's performance is weighing heavily on some of their minds.
"We're looking pretty good and the team is really coming together," said Reilly, who admits that a repeat trip to NCAAs is something that's been on his mind.
"Of course I'm thinking about NCAAs," Mills said. "An Ivy League title is more realistic this year, but if we get to NCAAs, well, I'd love to win."
A summer knee injury has prevented Mills from completing full practices during the preseason, and his status for the first few games is still uncertain.
As for Getman, three is one thing about last year he doesn't want to forget--friend and former Coach Jape Shattuck's philosophy of the game.
"Work hard and have fun, because if you don't enjoy what you're doing there's no reason to be out there."