Not since 2002 has the Harvard men’s soccer team pulled out a win in its season opener against Vermont—and one quick strike from the Catamounts propelled them to a 1-0 victory over the Crimson, extending that streak to three years.
Harvard (0-1-0) managed 14 shots against Vermont (3-0-0) Tuesday afternoon at Centennial Field. The Crimson mustered just two shots on net against a Catamounts defense that has only allowed one goal in its opening three contests.
“[Freshman goaltender] Tom Critz was outstanding in goal and our backline held together under intense pressure from a quality opponent,” Vermont coach Jesse Cormier said.
The Harvard defense—which returns captain Will Craig and junior David Williams—was just as firm as it held the Catamounts to four shots on net.
“[Vermont] tended to be a defensive team in general, didn’t work the ball through their midfield much but rather played long ball over the top and let their forwards just run on to it,” senior goalkeeper Ryan Johnson said.
The break came on one such counterattack after Critz cleared the ball from the goalie box and found fellow freshman Lee Stephane Kouadio.
Kouadio corralled the jump ball in traffic and after beating the Crimson defense was able to slip the ball past Johnson from five yards out.
“The ball took an awkward hop on Craig and they had a speedy forward who was able to get around him and kick it in,” Johnson said. “They had very little build up and were basically banking on the fact that at some point the defense would misplay a long ball and they might be able to sneak in.”
The Harvard offense, on the other hand, maintained constant pressure especially in the second half.
Senior forward Nicholas Tornaritis led the charge with five shots. He also provided the Crimson’s best scoring opportunity when his blast hit the upper bar of the goal and just missed tying the game at one.
“Throughout the entire game we had better scoring opportunities than Vermont,” senior forward Anthony Tornaritis said.
The five freshmen who saw action for Harvard played a key role in helping create these opportunities.
This inexperienced help came as a boost to a Crimson offense that will miss last year’s stalwarts junior Matt Hoff and sophomore Mike Fucito for the entire season.
“We started a bunch of freshmen and it’s sort of trial by fire for those guys,” Johnson said. “We are looking to learn from the loss, try and build on the good things we had, some of the creativity, and continue to work on our defensive shape and discipline.”
The Catamounts’ three wins mark their best start in 11 seasons, and Vermont has risen to No. 22 in the nation following its win over Harvard.
The Crimson returns home to open the Harvard Invitational on Sept. 16th and 18th against Furman and Coastal Carolina, respectively.
“We have to get angry at this loss and channel our anger onto the field on the 16th,” Anthony Tornaritis said. “Personally, I am still feeling that sting. I know we’re better.”
—Staff writer Gabriel M. Velez can be reached at email@example.com.