Sophomore JASON ANDERSEN executes a tackle in Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Columbia.
With the Harvard men’s soccer team trailing 2-1 with less than 20 minutes remaining in regulation, Crimson captain Michael Cornish found himself on a semi-breakaway. Sizing up the Columbia goalie, Cornish took a shot from just inside the box that deflected out of bounds off a Lion defender, but the play nevertheless resulted in a Columbia goal kick.
The misfortune embodied all the frustration Harvard has suffered in the past two weeks. Carrying a two-game losing streak into Saturday’s game, Harvard (8-6-1, 2-3-1 Ivy) failed to overcome a two-goal Columbia (8-5-1, 2-3-1 Ivy) lead and ultimately lost, 2-1. The defeat was the Crimson’s final home contest and likely the next-to-last game of the season.
Columbia relied on senior forward Jon Mycroft to score two goals in the first half. At the 17th minute mark, Mycroft made good of a crossing pass. With seven minutes before halftime, Mycroft struck again on a shot from outside the penalty box.
Harvard responded with a goal just before halftime. Senior forward Marc Buan took a pass from Cornish and promptly cut the lead to one.
“Mike Cornish came down the lane and just put an absolutely perfect ball across,” Buan said. “I took a great first touch and buried it. Michael’s ball was exactly where it needed to be.”
Harvard pressured Columbia for much of the second stanza, but was unable to tally the game-tying goal. One of the Crimson’s best second-half scoring opportunities came when junior forward Ladd Fritz was tripped up on a breakaway inside the penalty box area, yet no calls were made. This last non-call came minutes after Cornish’s shot went astray off a defender but no corner kick was awarded.
“There were definitely some questionable calls,” Fritz said. “It’s just unfortunate, [but] we can’t let it depend on the referring or blame the referees for the game.”
The loss dropped Harvard to a tie for fourth place in the Ivy League and further impaired the team’s hopes of an NCAA tournament at-large bid. Having started Ivy play 2-0-1, losing the last three league games was heart wrenching for the team. A season that began with very high expectations of a second straight NCAA berth will end in disappointment—especially for the seniors.
“It’s going to be a bad memory for [the seniors],” Fritz said. “ I think they’ve had a lot of good memories here… The juniors, sophomores and freshman have to learn from this experience and be able to take advantage of next year because we got a lot of people who want to win it next year.”
Harvard’s leading scorer, junior forward Kevin Ara sat out the game due to injury, but the frustration was not lost on him. Ara hoped that the team can send the seniors out in a style with a victory next Saturday over Penn, who stands at 5-0-1 in Ivy play.
“ It’s frustrating and disappointing,” Ara said. “I feel bad for the seniors. They’ve been here ever since I came on my recruiting visit and I wish I could have been there to help them… Basically our season’s over but we still want to win [next week’s game at Penn] for the seniors, for everything they’ve done for us. It would be ridiculous for us not to. We will put everything we have to beat Penn. Somebody has to pay for it.”