After winning seven straight games, the Harvard men’s soccer team can clinch its first Ivy League title in 10 years on Saturday with a win over Columbia at Ohiri Field.
Last Sunday, Harvard (12-4, 5-1 Ivy League) crushed Dartmouth for its fifth Ivy League victory of the season, putting destiny firmly in the hands of the Crimson. Harvard hosts Columbia (7-7-2, 0-4-2 Ivy) in its final game of the season in good standing to win the league title, which they can do outright with a victory or a Penn loss. Harvard’s five league wins have netted the team 15 points, three more than the Quakers, who sit in second with a 4-1-1 record and 13 points.
Of all the Ivy teams to go up against in its final game, Harvard cannot have drawn a better opponent than Columbia.
The Lions are ranked eighth or dead last in the Ivy League, and will likely prove to be the easiest Ivy opponent Harvard will face this season. Columbia has failed to win a single Ivy game so far, despite relative success in non-league action.
“This game is for the Ivy league championship—we have to make sure we are not going to underestimate the team,” junior goalie Adam Hahn said. “We are just going to get sharp, make sure everyone is focused and hopefully we will come out and crush Columbia.”
While the Lions haven’t won a single Ivy game yet, every league game they have lost has only been by one goal. Columbia has yet to be crushed by an opponent—the Lions have hung around their Ivy foes, just seeming to always get the unlucky draw.
While Columbia hasn’t yet won a league match, then, it cannot be said the Lions will be an easy match for the Crimson, as two of Columbia’s league games have gone into double overtime and one into single overtime.
While Harvard is favored in the match, the Crimson will have to come and play strong if it wants to clinch the title on its own terms, as the Lions represent a potential trap game for the surging Crimson.
“Their record is a little deceiving—they are better than what their record shows,” senior captain Charles Altcheck said. “They have lost a couple of close games in the last minute or two. We are not going to take them for granted—we know it is going to be a tough game and we are treating it as such.”
Harvard hasn’t won an Ivy League title in 10 years, its last championship coming in 1996. Harvard’s current head coach John Kerr joined the program in 1999, and thus this would be Kerr’s first Ivy title since becoming a part of the Harvard program.
“It’s almost embarrassing to hear that Harvard men’s soccer hasn’t won a title in 10 years,” Hahn said. “The thought of Saturday is so exciting—we have the opportunity to do what we haven’t been able to do for the last 10 years. We want to set the tone for Harvard soccer.”
Because of the rise to the top that this Harvard team has experienced, it has been drawing a good deal of national buzz, especially as the NCAA tournament approaches.
ESPN soccernet has even put out its own article on the Crimson, praising this newly-minted Harvard soccer juggernaut. The article recounts how Harvard had hoped this season would be the one for them, with the returning Ivy League Player of the Year (Charles Altchek), 2003 and 2004 Ivy League Rookies of the Year (Matt Hoff and Mike Fucito respectively), as well as the lead freshman in the race for this year’s Ivy League Rookie of the Year honors (Andre Akpan).
It seems that people are starting to take notice of this team at the right moment. Now, the Crimson has to hold up its end of the bargain and not suffer a letdown against the league’s doormat. If it can take care of business, Harvard will be able to hoist up a championship banner.
—Staff writer Abigail M. Baird can be reached at email@example.com.