Following its 1-0 win over Fairfield last Saturday night, things were looking up for the Harvard men’s soccer team’s matchup against Yale the next weekend. It had just bounced back from a tough loss against Vermont, was expecting sophomore forward Charles Altchek to retrun to the lineup in time for the game against the Bulldogs and saw that its rival was still winless.
Oh what a difference a week makes.
Now it is Yale (1-6-0) that is coming off of a big win over the Stags, and the Crimson (4-4-0) which has stumbled as of late, losing to Maine 2-1 on Tuesday. Harvard will also be without the services of its leading scorer, junior midfielder Anthony Tornaritis, who was awarded a red card against the Black Bears for swearing while arguing a call in the closing seconds of the match.
But what better time to put all of that trouble behind you than against your arch-rival in the Ivy opener? And against your little brother to boot?
“Yeah, my parents were joking that I should tell [Yale] coach [Brian Tompkins] to put me in, or else they’ll start cheering for Harvard,” said Bulldog freshman defender James Craig, Harvard junior captain Will Craig’s little brother.
“They said something about maybe switching sweatshirts at the half,” Will said of his parent’s conundrum about who to cheer for.
But no matter what side Ray and Jane Craig decide to root for, they will most likely find their voices drowned out by all of the other voices in this pivotal match.
With the number of losses that each team has at this point in the season, it will be very difficult for either of them to make it into the post-season without performing exceptionally well in conference play. And though both sides wish that they didn’t have to rely on an Ivy championship in order to make the NCAA tournament, they see the need for getting off on the right foot.
“I can’t tell you how important it is to start out at 1-0 in the Ivy League,” Harvard coach John Kerr said.
Kerr will be facing a difficult time in getting his offense to produce without the services of Tornaritis, who has played a vital role in the attack. He has two times as many goals (4), assists (2) and points (10) as the second place man in each of those categories. Tornaritis has been especially important in the past week due to the absence of Altchek at the front line.
Kerr tried to exert more pressure on the opponent’s defense in the second half against Maine by switching the lineup formation from a 4-4-2 to a 3-5-3. He did this by holding Will Craig and seniors Sam Wiggin and Jason Anderson on the back line, and moving up sophomore Tom Stapleton to defensive midfielder with senior Zach Chandis. Kerr said on Wednesday that was unsure how he would position the team against Yale, but added that it will depend greatly on what he sees in the tape of the Bulldogs playing Fairfield.
Still, both sides are quick to point out that no matter what the situation, there’s bit more pizzazz when these two colleges face each other.
“Yale-Harvard games, at any time, are spirited affairs,” Tompkins said. “That’s what we live for—the rivalry and the competition.”
“I know that their coach is going to get them fired up,” Kerr said. “I mean, it’s not very hard to get fired up for a Harvard-Yale game.”
Kickoff is at 3 p.m. tomorrow at Ohiri Field, following the women’s game at 12 p.m.
—Staff writer Evan R. Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.