The same held true on Saturday when the Crimson (4-2-1, 0-1 Ivy) dropped a 3-1 contest in the Ivy League opener to the rival Bulldogs (4-1-3, 1-0) during a night affair in New Haven. The first conference loss of the season also snapped a three-game winning streak and an unbeaten streak stretching back to the first game of the season. Still, for some, the excitement that comes with any athlete’s first Harvard-Yale game was a small bit of consolation for dropping to 0-1 in league play.
"Even though we lost, it was so much fun playing in front of all those people, in that kind of atmosphere," freshman Walter Diaz said. "Those games are always huge, and with that type of atmosphere, it’s the way to go."
The lone score of the night for the Crimson came from another Harvard-Yale novice, when freshman John Stamatis scored the team’s only goal early in the second half to chop the 2-0 Bulldog lead in half.
Perhaps it wasn’t a surprise that the scoring came from a newer face, considering that a number of experienced upperclassmen suffered early-season injuries that forced them to miss significant playing time or play a bit hobbled. Senior Jeff Chivers’ season is likely over, while the rest of the injured players will have to try to catch up as the season progresses.
The Crimson played catch-up for most of the game, thanks to a goal only 6:20 into the contest from Yale’s Liam Leonard. Yale added to its lead with a score from Jon Carlos about five minutes before halftime.
The first half hole-a two-goal margin that was the team’s largest for the entire season-proved too tough for Harvard to climb from. A spark was generated thanks to a Bulldog penalty nearly 12 minutes into the second half. Stamatis converted the ensuing penalty kick, bringing the contest to 2-1 and giving Harvard some newfound hope.
"We started the game a little slow, and they scored early in the first half, but after that, we started to come back," Diaz said. "After they scored again, we really woke up and made some line changes, and we started the second half ready to beat them, but we just couldn’t put it all together."
The Bulldogs finally put the game away at the 83:14 mark, when Alex Munns knocked an unassisted goal through the nets. Munns, who also assisted on Yale’s second tally, proved to be a problem for the Crimson. He returns to the team as last year’s leading scorer, and his four goals and two assists in the 2005 campaign have him in place to challenge for that spot again this year for Yale, the second-highest scoring team in the Ivy League.
Although dropping the conference opener will surely hurt Harvard’s aspirations for Ivy League supremacy at season’s end, players believed the loss will not destroy the team’s goal of bringing home their first Ivy championship since 1996.
"It’s an inspiration for upcoming games, because we definitely should have beaten them," Diaz said. "We especially played well in the second half, and we’re going to try to carry the drive from this into the next game."
That next game, a non-conference match-up with Rhode Island at Ohiri Field, should get the Crimson ready for its second league game of the season this Saturday night in Ithaca, against Cornell.