Unbeaten Booters to Test Youthful UConn
First take away five starters from last year's Connecticut men's soccer team, the Crimson's main challenger for the 1987 New England title.
And replace them with inexperienced freshmen.
Then put the Huskies on a bus away from Connecticut Soccer Stadium--where UConn gave Harvard its toughest defensive battles last season, twice holding the Crimson scoreless in regulation play.
And plunk them down on Ohiri Field this afternoon to face the Crimson, who haven't lost a game at home since October, 1985.
Then line up the UConn offense--three freshmen, one sophomore and a senior--against the Crimson's attack: 1986 Freshman of the Year Derek Mills; 1987 team top scorer Dave Kramer; fourth-year starter Ramy Rajballie; third-year starter Nick D'Onofrio and Paul Baverstock; and, yes, one rookie.
To be fair, the Huskies can keep senior All-America Dan Donigan.
And they can have a head start--eight games of warmup to Harvard's two.
Don't expect a repeat of last year's 0-0 early-season tie between the Huskies (3-4-1 overall, 1-0-1 New England) and the Crimson (2-0 overall, 1-0 Ivy League). Or even Harvard's 1-0 overtime win in the New England Championship.
"It's not going to be a defensive battle," Harvard Coach Mike Getman said. "We're going to go forward and score as many goals as we can."
Harvard has scored but two goals this season, and UConn has tallied only four times in its last five games. The drought isn't expected to continue during today's contest.
"We're not worried. We know our offensive line is going to score goals," junior Roger Chapman said.
Already eight games into its schedule, UConn should come into today's contest in mid-season form--a point the Crimson is far from reaching.
But Harvard has a line-up heavy with veterans: nine of 11 starter return, with one of the vacant positions filled by Chapman, a back who has seen plenty of action in past seasons.
"We have a lot of ground to make up," Huskie Coach Joe Morrone said. "Harvard has basically the same team as last year. They don't need a lot of games to get into form."
For UConn, which has had a tough start to its season, today's game is a key opportunity to prove it is a national-caliber team.
"It will be very different from the Connecticut teams of the past," Getman said. "They are much, much younger and inexperienced. They play extremely well at times, and at other times they make mistakes. We don't know what team will show up."
There's no question what Morrone and his Huskies expect from the Crimson--nothing but the best.
"All the raves we've been hearing about Harvard, the high pre-season ranking--I'm sure it's completely accurate," Morrone said. "We just want to be in a position to be close."
For the Crimson, freshman Lenny Ilkhanoff will be starting at left midfield for the first time this season. Ilkhanoff was one of three freshmen who saw time in that position during last Saturday's 1-0 win over Columbia.
Senior Stephen Hall has drawn goalkeeping duties, and will attempt to extend his two-game shutout streak.
UConn's Donigan, touted as one of the top players in the country this season, will be a crucial factor in the Huskies' otherwise inexperienced offense. Donigan netted the game-winner in UConn's 1-0 triumph over Army last Saturday.
The match will air on New England Sports Network (NESN) tonight at 10:30 p.m.