On Saturday, the Harvard men’s soccer team faced off against the Bearcats in its first game of the NCAA tournament. The Crimson triumphed over Binghamton 2-1, but only after essentially playing two separate games of soccer.
In the first half of play, it was the Bearcats who held possession of the ball for most of the time, keeping it down on Harvard’s defensive end and forcing the Crimson to step up its defensive play in order to keep Binghamton at bay. Making the task harder was the fact that the wind was on the side of the Bearcats at the time, helping the ball go their way.
“The wind did play a big role,” said forward and captain Charles Altchek. “[On] our clearances out of defense in the first half, we had a hard time getting it out of our zone and they were able to come back and attack.”
With the wind at their backs, the Binghamton attackers came back time and time again to attack the Harvard goal and junior goalie Adam Hahn.
The sun was also a factor, as it was extremely strong facing the same way as the wind. In the first half, the Bearcats not only had the advantage of playing with the wind at their backs, but were also facing Crimson defensemen who had the sun shining directly in their faces.
“I thought [in] the first half, our guys were ready for the state of the match, and were very good going forward and extremely disciplined in the back,” Marco said. “Perhaps we may have had one or two other goals in the first half, and maybe that could have been the difference to us.”
Harvard seemed to realize how close it was. The team was proud of its tough play in the first half, as Binghamton, with control of the ball, had multiple opportunities to score a second goal but was never able to do so. In the first half of play, the Bearcats had seven shots on goal, but all but one were foiled by Hahn.
“[Binghamton] shut down our weapons in the first half,” said Harvard coach John Kerr. “I was just grateful that they didn’t score that second goal.”
With the Crimson only down 1-0 at halftime, it was time for a comeback. Harvard would now have the advantages of wind and sun on its side, and could give the Bearcats a run for their money.
“Once we got ourselves back to halftime only being 1-0 down, we knew we just had to calm down and play our style of soccer,” Kerr said. “[We just had to] stick to what we have done all season long.”
The Crimson came out of its halftime huddle with a vengeance and attacked Binghamton hard, scoring the tying goal 12 minutes after the start of the half.
Although the weather conditions helped to keep the momentum clearly on one side of the field, it never led directly to a goal.
“I don’t know if [the conditions] affected the outcome,” Marco said. “I don’t think it impacted the goals.”
The goals did seem to be affected, however, by the field conditions. Ohiri field was a mess, extremely muddy and slick, with players continually slipping and falling throughout play.
In assisting on the first goal, sophomore midfielder John Stamatis fell over after passing the ball in front of the goal to junior forward Mike Fucito.
Hahn slipped as well in punting a ball, only kicking it a short way and giving the Bearcats a second chance to attack the Harvard goal.
The Crimson did have one intangible on its side the whole time: fan support. Attendance at the game reached 986—a number second only to that of the game against Duke.
“[The fans] were amazing,” Fucito said. “If ever I felt tired or anything, they just gave me so much energy and positive support. It made a difference.”
The fans seemed to give Harvard the extra boost it needed to push past a tough team like Binghamton and send the team to UCLA for their its game of the tournament.
—Staff writer Abigail M. Baird can be reached at email@example.com.