“We were definitely frustrated all game,” said junior captain and defender Will Craig. “I don’t think any of us were in sync today.”
The loss drops Harvard (3-3-0) to .500 on the season, while the Catamounts (4-2-1) continue with its impressive start after beginning last season 0-4-3.
UVM notched the lone goal of the game in the 40th minute, when Ronan Keegan broke through the Crimson defense from the left side after receiving a pass from Tony Anderson that deflected off of Craig’s foot. Once he had Harvard junior goalie Ryan Johnson one-on-one, Keegan faked Johnson and put it into the right side of the net.
“It was a bad reaction by our defenders,” Kerr said. “I think there was a missed tackle up forward in the midfield.”
The Crimson’s best chance to tie the game came midway through the second half, when junior midfielder Anthony Tornaritis passed the ball from outside of the penalty box to forward Michael Fucito as the freshman was streaking towards the goal. But after receiving the ball and finding himself with a one-on-one opportunity, Fucito sent the ball sailing over the goal.
Fucito was starting in place of sophomore Charles Altchek, who strained his MCL against Hartford on Sunday. Coach John Kerr noted the absence of the 6’2 attacker, who had led the Crimson on a scoring blitz of seven goals in two games.
“Charles brings a different element to our game—he wins a lot of balls in the air,” Kerr said. “He makes the other two defenders have to work for their chances. He’s a big loss for us.”
Additionally, the Catamounts gave Harvard a scheme it has not seen much this season—focusing on the defensive side of the ball and keeping men behind the Crimson forwards.
“We definitely did not have the chances,” Craig said. “They played us a little differently—they stayed back and kept themselves behind us. To be fair, their backs played an excellent game.”
As the seconds on the clocked ticked down and the game ended, the players’ frustration was evident, as junior midfielder Nicholas Tornaritis ripped off his shin guards and threw them to the ground in disgust.
Throughout the second half, Harvard players showed numerous signs that the UVM’s defense was frustrating the Crimson offense. Late in the second half, Craig took a free kick that he attempted to pass into the box. After no Harvard player came near his pass and the ball rolled out, Craig yelled to his teammates, “Hey, I need somebody!”
Throughout the game, the Crimson did not quite connect on passes and generally appeared to have issues communicating and handling the ball, but still managed to outshoot UVM 11-9 in the second half.
Perhaps more frustrating than the offensive miscues were the ones that occurred on the side of the field. Twice in the first half, Harvard defenders passed the ball back to Johnson in a situation where the immediate Catamount pressure placed on the Crimson goaltender forced him to kick it out of bounds.
“It’s nothing huge, but we have to get little things in our game right,” Kerr said. “We want to get back to basics and do the little things well and everything else will work itself out.”
The weather was another factor in yesterday’s contest, as players were often tossed water bottles from the sidelines in order to compensate with the heat.
“It was tough for the defense,” Kerr said. “We were trying to press to get the goal back and they had to make a lot of runs. We exposed ourselves a little bit in the back when we went forward. It’s hard work to recover when you do expose yourself.”
“We were worn down because we were chasing the ball down the entire first half,” Craig said. “We played in much worse conditions down in South Carolina.”
Harvard’s next game takes place this Saturday at Fairfield at 7 p.m., when the Crimson will look to prevent its one-time three-game winning streak from turning quickly into a losing skid.
—Staff writer Gabriel M. Velez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.