Last season, the Harvard men’s soccer team ran into trouble when it didn’t score first. The Crimson fell in six such games—against Vermont, Boston University, Brown, Yale, Cornell, and Holy Cross,
But this season, Harvard (6-4-0, 1-1-0 Ivy) has taken huge steps to make sure it can recover from early setbacks. Take, for instance, the team’s latest game against Yale, a 3-2 win.
After the Bulldogs started out the game strong, managing to hit the top of the net from almost 40 yards out, Harvard did not become discouraged. This time, the Crimson fought back.
“Well, we made life difficult going down twice in the first half,” Harvard coach John Kerr said. “But it shows that we have a lot of resiliency and a lot of poise to come back twice in the first half and to level things off at halftime.”
Overall, in the seven games this season in which its opponent has scored first, the Crimson has won three of the matches, improving its track record significantly.
Even though Harvard was not favored in the match, coming in with a record of 5-4-0 overall and 0-1-0 in the Ivy League, the team’s fans provided significant support.
“The crowd was great,” captain forward Charles Altchek said. “We had a lot of people come out and there were a lot of alums. It really helps you and makes a difference to be at home, and I think the crowd today was louder even than the one we had against Duke.”
It took spectators most of the first half to get really riled up. When they did reach that point, they lived up to the standards of past Harvard-Yale games. The crowd consisted not only of Harvard students, but also included a number of alumni from around the country and overseas.
Its enthusiasm helped to pump up the energy of the team as it went into the second half of play with a vengeance.
“It was a huge boost,” Kerr said. “We felt the home field advantage today—no question about it. It lifted our guys.”
At the beginning of play, Yale proved to be a quick and energetic team and proved successful at wearing out many of the Crimson players. It was the crowd, though, that helped bring them back—when their excitement grew, so did the team’s.
CLIMBING THE VINE OF THE IVY LEAGUE
Entering Saturday’s match, Harvard was in a tenuous position in the Ivy League standings at seventh place, just ahead of last-place Princeton. Both teams had Ivy records of 0-1-0. Another Ivy loss would have been detrimental for the Crimson, as it would have put it down 0-2-0, a hole that has proven hard to crawl out of in the Ivies.
“If we’d lost this game we would have been hard pressed to compete for the Ivy League,” Altchek said. “So it was pretty much do or die.”
After Saturday’s games, the standings have been shuffled around as all eight Ivy League teams had an inter-league match. Dartmouth fell to Princeton, 0-1. Penn triumphed over Cornell 1-0, and Brown beat Columbia 2-1. Thus, Harvard is now tied for third position in the standings, with Yale and Princeton. Penn holds tight in first with a 2-0-0 record and Brown moves to second with 1-0-1. After so many teams have fallen off, and with only Penn holding a 2-0-0 record, the Crimson still has a chance to make a run at the title.
—Staff writer Abigail M. Baird can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.