Rookie Worthy of Player of Year

Freshman forward contender for both of Ivy League’s top awards

WORTHY OF AK-CLAIM
Alexandra C. Bell

Freshman Andre Akpan is virtually a lock for Ivy League Rookie of the Year, but he has also established himself as a contender for Player of the Year. The forward leads the Crimson with nine goals and 11 assists, near-historic for a Harvard freshman.

Every year, some player is named Ivy League Rookie of the Year for men’s soccer.

But it isn’t every year that that same player is in contention in the Player of the Year category.

Freshman standout forward André—not Andre, as is listed on gocrimson.com, nor Andre’, like his facebook.com profile allows—Akpan is dominating the competition for the first award and making his name known in competition for the latter. Three out of the last four weeks, he has been named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week. To date, his statistics have been near-historic for a freshman: he has nine goals and 11 assists for the Crimson (11-4-0, 4-1-0 Ivy). Those numbers not only lead the Harvard offense—which is one of the top-scoring offenses in the nation—but give him the most in the league.

Moving to a national level, his numbers become even more impressive: as a freshman, he is currently 10th in the country in points per game.

Still don’t believe that he is in contention for Player of the Year? He has also played the most minutes of any player on the Crimson outside of junior goalie Adam Hahn and has two game-winning tallies.

“He is a smart runner and does not do a lot of unnecessary running and thus can stay active for the entire 90 minutes,” sophomore John Stamatis says.

Stamatis and Akpan hooked up twice—with the latter on the finishing end—for two key goals in a 3-2 win over Yale earlier this season.

“He’s a very efficient player,” says captain and fellow forward Charles Altchek. “He understands the game very well and reads the game very well. He knows where he has to be and doesn’t waste a lot of time trying to get there—he just ends up there naturally.”

Perhaps the most pleasantly surprising aspect of Akpan’s play to date this season has been his consistency. Despite playing so many minutes and having some early season performances that many may have assumed were to be the highlight of his season, he has continued to contribute and be the finisher for the offense.

As Ivy League play had just begun—and after Akpan scored two goals in the victory over Yale—Altchek noted that “the second he starts to lose focus, it’ll be a problem for us. We want him to stay hungry. He has all the tools, so for him, being truly great is just a question of how much he wants it.”

Akpan has proven that any concerns have proven to be unnecessary. Just this past week, he had two goals and an assist in a 5-2 win over Holy Cross and added a game-winning score in a 2-1 win over Princeton that kept the Crimson tied for the lead in the Ivy League.

Part of Akpan’s continued success throughout the season can no doubt be chalked up to playing opposite Altchek, the reigning Ivy League Player of the Year.

Working together up front with Akpan, Altchek has nine goals and four assists, giving the forward tandem an impressive 18 goals between the two of them.

“They complement each other very well,” Stamatis says. “Charles is very tireless and hardworking player, and Andre is a little more of a finesse player and [can] calm the game down a little bit more if we need too.”

So by now, it should be pretty clear that Akpan has at least earned consideration for Player of the Year and has been a key part of the Crimson’s success this season.

But will he win the Ivy’s top award?

“I can’t see why he wouldn’t—he has been a big impact on our team,” Altchek says. “He’s been our main man all year, so we’ll see what happens. But I don’t think we are too worried about that—and I don’t think he is either.”

—Staff writer Abigail M. Baird contributed to the reporting of this story.

—Staff writer Gabriel M. Velez can be reached at gmvelez@fas.harvard.edu.

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