In the season opener last week, the Harvard men's soccer team was almost its own worst enemy, missing offensive opportunities and suffering occasional defensive lapses.
This weekend, it was.
At the Dartmouth Soccer Classic, the Crimson lost to No. 9 Stanford, 2-0, and tied with Boston University, 2-2, falling victim to blown scoring chances and inconsistent defense.
The loss and the tie even out Harvard's record to 1-1-1, providing an important and instructive test for the young team.
"This weekend was a good learning experience for the freshmen and for our team in general," said freshman midfielder Ladd Fritz.
The Crimson will look to regroup from this weekend's mistakes and continue its road trip against Vermont on Wednesday.
Harvard 2, B.U. 2
Following its solid play against the Cardinal, the Crimson had flashes of brilliance combined with streaks of mediocrity in yesterday's 2-2 tie with the Terriers.
"It was a huge disappointment to come out with a tie," said sophomore sweeper Mike Lobach. "We missed a lot of chances."
One scoring chance Harvard didn't pass up was in the first minute of play. Sophomore Mike Cornish accepted a pass from sophomore midfielder Joe Steffa and rocketed a shot past B.U. goaltender Mike Cardenas 54 seconds into the game.
With the early momentum, the Crimson continued firing on all cylinders offensively. Fritz, who set up the game-winning goal in the season opener, scored his first collegiate goal off a feed from captain Ryan Kelly and senior midfielder Wells Mangrum.
"Wells played it to Ryan on the endline, and I just stepped inside the 18-yard line and one-timed Ryan's pass," Fritz said.
Unfortunately for the productive Crimson offense, the defense broke down to begin the second half, allowing two goals in five minutes.
"We just came out soft and complacent," Lobach said.
The Terriers quick scoring success tied the game at 2-2 and forced the Crimson offense to once again come up with a sterling strike.
Such an opportunity occurred in the 85th minute when freshman forward Grayson Sugarman drove into the box and readied for a point-blank shot. However, Sugarman was taken down forcibly by a Terrier defender, and no penalty kick was awarded despite the apparent foul.
Unable to win the game in regulation, the Crimson pressed on in overtime. Again, Harvard endured a substantial setback when Lobach was ejected in the extra period after collecting his second yellow card.
Despite the ejection of one its cornerstone defensive players, Harvard tried unsuccessfully once more to pull out a victory in the second overtime. Ultimately, a tie was the best the Crimson could muster.
Junior goaltender Dan Mejias, who collected six saves against B.U., and Lobach represented the Crimson as selections for the All-Tournament Team.
Stanford 2, Harvard 0
Coming into Saturday's game against the Cardinal, the Crimson had reason to be optimistic on the offensive side of the ball.
Junior midfielder Nick Lenicheck, a potent weapon who led the team in assists last year, returned to the lineup after missing last week's season opener against West Virginia.
As it would turn out, however, Harvard's defense was the primary reason the game remained competitive.
"We really didn't have to many bright spots on offensive," Steffa said. "But our defense was very strong."
The Crimson was able to hold a larger and more physical Stanford team scoreless for the first 70 minutes of play despite being outfouled 12-9.
"They were strong all over the field," Lobach said. "The game was choppy, but it never got out of hand."
In the first half alone, the Cardinal reeled off 11 shots on goal, forcing Mejias to make two crucial saves. By contrast, the Crimson only managed one shot on goal in the first half and only three for the entire game.
Mejias ended the game with eight saves while his counterpart, Adam Zapala, did not make any saves in the winning effort.
The second half held more of the same in store for Harvard, with Stanford controlling the ball effectively and testing the Crimson defense.
"Once the second half started, they had the better balls and were able to keep possession," Steffa said.
Stanford's relentless attack finally caught Harvard's defense off-guard as Cardinal senior Luke Rust scored off a cross from sophomore Roger Levesque in the 72nd minute.
Six minutes later, Cardinal sophomore Johannes Maliza also received a well-played ball from Levesque and blasted a shot past Mejias to give Stanford a 2-0 lead.
"They just wore us down defensively," Fritz said.
Adding injury to insult, the Crimson's stellar defense suffered a devastating blow, losing freshman back Andrew Old to a knee injury in the second half. Freshman Andrew Nechtem will probably start in place of Old for Wednesday's game against Vermont.