That’s because the Crimson (2-1-2) is facing off against—in a single weekend—the two toughest opponents it will face all season as it travels Tobacco Road to take on No. 8 North Carolina and Duke.
The two squads most recently squared off against one another, as the Tar Heels (7-1-2) defeated the Blue Devils (2-5-1) Wednesday night—3-2 in overtime. Put Up Your Dukes
Though tonight’s meeting between Harvard and Duke is the first in recent memory, the two did meet in the semifinals for the national championship in 1986.
And though the 1986 contest may seem too long ago to have an impact on tonight’s game, there is one player from that Blue Devils squad—which went on to win the national title—that plays a pretty important role in the Harvard program.
Crimson coach John Kerr.
The same John Kerr who won the Hermann Trophy—college soccer’s equivalent of the Heisman—the first year it was ever given out, was on the U.S. National Team from 1984-1995, served as a Duke assistant coach on the 1992 team that made it to the national semifinals and is now entering his fifth year as the head coach for Harvard.
If that isn’t enough, Kerr will be facing off against his former coach and boss, John Remmie, who is now in his 25th year with the Blue Devils, has an overall record of (343-128-28) and is a college soccer coaching legend.
As if things couldn’t get more dramatic, Duke has fallen out of ACC grace and are currently on a six game winless streak after losing the heartbreaker to UNC Wednesday.
“They’re waiting for us in their cauldron of doom,” Kerr said. “They’re going to be a wounded animal, and the wounded animal might try and get out early.”
Despite the enormous pressure that the coach and the his squad must be feeling as they head into such unfriendly territory, Kerr insists that hostile feelings will only exist when the ball is in play.
“It’ll be tense once the game kicks off,” Kerr said. “Its going to be an interesting feeling to go back to Duke, where I was a player and an assistant coach to Coach Remmie.”
Tearing Up the Tar Heels
When most college fans think of UNC soccer, almost all think of the women’s team. It’s hard not to.
With 22 appearances in the Final Four, 17 national championships, 15 straight ACC titles, and the most famous female soccer player in Mia Hamm, its easy to forget about the men.
But they won’t let you.
Though the women have brought home far more championship trophies, it was the men who brought home the most recent one—in 2001—and it is the men who still feel they have a lot to prove to the world of college soccer.
“Obviously its going to be tough,” said captain and defender Andrew Old. “We’re looking forward to playing them. That’s why we’re here.”
To win, Harvard will certainly need its new, potent attack to play one of its best games of the season.
Though it struggled early in the season—averaging just a little over a goal a game in four contests—the three that it scored against a normally stringent Black Bear defense earlier this week offer a glimpse of the squad’s explosive offensive potential.
Leading the charge of this freshly rejuvenated charge are freshmen Matt Hoff and Charles Altcheck and sophomore Brian Charnock.
“I think they’re starting to show signs of exactly what they’re capable of,” Old said.
“They’re going to find their form, and they’re going to be dangerous for this season and for seasons in the future.”
“I’m really enjoying the way that they seem to be getting familiar with each other,” Kerr said. “The passing and the interplay is really exciting. I’m hoping they’ll be scoring every game, because they are a handful when they get together.”
—Staff writer Evan R. Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.