PRINCETON, N.J.Just like that, the Harvard mens soccer team has made the jump from worst to first place in the Ivy League.
Following a second-half scoring blitzkrieg, the Crimson (8-5-0, 3-1-0) won its fourth straight game, defeating Princeton 5-2 on Saturday, and is now tied atop the standings after sitting in last place just three weeks ago.
This is the most exciting team Ive played on at Harvard, junior goalkeeper Ryan Johnson said. We keep this up, and some people are going to start turning heads.
Harvard may have won handily, but it wasnt able to blow the game open until the second half when it tallied three goals in less than six minutes to take a 4-0 lead. Before that point, the Tigers (6-4-3, 2-1-1) missed several point-blank opportunities to score, but were denied time and again with impressive saves by Johnson.
They probably had three shots that I thought were going in where I thought Ryan just had some incredible saves, said junior captain and defender Will Craig. Ryan saved us. Hes the player of the game.
Johnson recorded seven saves on the day and shut out Princeton, whose two goals came once he was pulled in the waning minutes of the second half when senior Jamie Roth was manning the net.
I would have liked to have seen the defense play a little tighter, Johnson said. This was one of the best games Ive played at Harvard.
But following the two Tiger goals, which brought the score to 4-2, Crimson head coach John Kerr sent several of the starters back inincluding sophomore forward Charles Altchek and junior midfielder Anthony Tornaritisto swing the tide back in Harvards favor. A goal from junior midfielder Jeffery Chiversthe first of his collegiate careerwith less than five minutes left in the game wiped out any hope the Tigers had for an improbable comeback.
Its never good to let them score two goals in the span of four minutes when theres still like 10 minutes left in the game, Craig said.
But Kerr said that junior midfielder Nicholas Tornaritis first goal, which put Harvard up 2-0, was the score that really drove the dagger into the heart of the Princeton team, and ended Tiger hopes to control the game.
As soon as I hit it I knew it was going in, said Nicholas Tornaritis, who blew kisses to his teammates and into the stands following the score.
Nicholas Tornaritisthis weeks Ivy Player of the Weekscored again less a minute later on an assist from Altchek on a play that prompted several of the Tiger players to look for an offsides call. Nicholas Tornaritis now leads Harvard with six goals.
Altchek also had two scores on the day, recording the Crimsons first and fourth goals.
The five tallies are the most that Harvard has had all season, a remarkable turnaround from last weeks contest at Brown, which the Crimson won on a last-second goal, 1-0.
When this team is alive, they can score a lot of goals, Kerr said.
Harvard started out the contest with a more aggressive approach to the game than it did against the Bears, moving up freshman forward Michael Fucito to the front line with Altchek and sophomore Matt Hoff in the first half.
But the situation also left the Crimson more vulnerable to counterattacks, which the Tigers took strong advantage of. Further hindering the Crimsons defensive efforts was the absence of senior defender Jason Andersen, who aggravated his right toe in practice on Friday. Senior defender Zach Chandis started in his place, and Kerr said he was unsure if Andersen would return for tomorrows game against Providence.
Harvard also had a difficult time moving the ball upfield, and often lost equal opportunities near midfield if Altchek wasnt able to get his head on it and redirect it to a teammate.
Our clearances arent as strong as Id like them to be, Kerr said. Its like giving them a rebound in basketball.
Still, Harvard is in good shape for the rest of the Ivy season, following Penns 1-0 loss to Yale Saturday. The Quakers and Princeton had been tied for first, but their first league losses now put Dartmouth, the Crimson and the Bulldogs in a three-way tie for first, though Harvard has the most overall wins. The Crimson will look to improve on that overall record tomorrow against a struggling Friars team (0-13) before heading up to Hanover on Sunday in a pivotal game against the Big Green (4-1-6, 2-0-2).
—Staff writer Evan R. Johnson can be reached at email@example.com.