Unfortunately, that goal is already out of reach, as the Crimson (0-1) fell 10-2 to No. 24 Bucknell on Saturday afternoon in the squad’s season opener at Jordan Field.
The Bison (1-1) scored early and often, building a 7-0 halftime lead. But Harvard regained its composure and even outscored Bucknell in the fourth quarter, 2-0.
Sophomore attack Mike McBride was the first Harvard player to find the back of the net. On a man-up situation with 12:49 left, junior midfielder Alex Vap found McBride open in the middle of the field. The sophomore then bounced a shot past Bucknell goaltender Justin Sussman.
The second Crimson score came at the 6:39 mark of the fourth quarter. Vap lit up the scoreboard, assisted by junior attack Anders Johnson.
“I thought the first 10 minutes of the game and the last 20 minutes were pretty good,” Harvard coach Scott Anderson said. “It was just the part in the middle there that was rough.”
Some of the Crimson offensive woes can be attributed to the unexpected absence of two of last year’s leading scorers. Tri-captain attack Matt Primm (19 goals, 22 assists) and junior midfielder Jeff Gottschall (13 goals, 3 assists) missed the game with pneumonia and a high ankle sprain, respectively.
But the Bison offense, which outshot Harvard 35-27, was a different story. The unit distributed the ball well and saw eight different players score, including Worthy Sanders, who figured in two of the first three goals.
Still, the Bucknell offense’s success may have had more to do with the team’s superb defense. The two goals allowed by the Bison are the fewest the team has conceded since March 3, 2001, when Bucknell posted a 12-1 a victory over Holy Cross.
Netminder Sussman also proved a major frustration for would-be Crimson scorers with a 20-save performance. The outing allowed Sussman’s teammates on the opposite end of the field to retain possession for the majority of the game, inevitably leading to easy scoring opportunities.
“I don’t think that they are that versatile as a team offensively,” Anderson said. “I don’t think they have anyone on their team like Matt Primm or anyone as physically good as Jeff Gottschall. We’re a dramatically different team without those guys.”
On a bright note for Harvard, the team did dominate the faceoffs. Led by Vap, the Crimson won 10-of-15 in this department.
“I think Alex did a really great job out there today,” junior goalie Jake McKenna said. “We just have to work on everything after [the faceoffs].”
The veterans’ absence allowed Anderson to play many freshmen.
“It’s a huge transition from high school to D-I, and it’s really hard to play so much in your first collegiate game,” McKenna said.
Luckily for the Crimson, both Primm and Gottschall will likely return to the lineup this Saturday afternoon when Harvard hosts Hartford (1-0) at 3:30 p.m. Last year, Primm helped propel Harvard to an 11-7 victory over the Hawks with three goals and four assists.
Hartford is coming off of a season-opening win against Marist (0-3), whom the Hawks defeated 6-5 on Saturday afternoon.
In the meantime, the Crimson will look to fine-tune some of its weaker areas that were revealed in Saturday’s match.
“We’re not a very good shooting team, which is something we’ve been working on very hard during practice,” Anderson said. “And today I thought our shooting was awful. We took a lot of real soft shots.”
—Staff writer Evan R. Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.