Co-captain and goalkeeper Adam Hahn made five saves—including a spectacular second-half stop—in a 1-0 loss to Dartmouth on Saturday.
As the defending Ivy League champion and the highest nationally ranked team in the Ancient Eight at the start of the season, the Harvard men’s soccer team (9-3-2, 2-2-0 Ivy) has been playing with a target on its back from the beginning.
On Saturday at Ohiri Field, Dartmouth (9-3-2, 3-0-1 Ivy) forward Craig Henderson hit that target, scoring the game’s only goal and handing the Crimson its second Ivy loss of the year.
Thirty minutes into the first half, Henderson, who was standing about six yards away from the goalmouth, received a pass from teammate Dani Rothenberg. With his back to the net, one defender on him, and another quickly converging, Henderson made a quick spin move and fired a left-footed shot past the outstretched arms of diving senior goalkeeper Adam Hahn.
“I kind of got unlucky on that goal,” Hahn said. “Not a bad turn, and a pretty good finish. That was kind of tough for us to take.”
Harvard has come from behind many times this season, and going down early has hardly ever meant defeat. But on Saturday, with a muddy field that lent itself to sloppy play, the magic finally ran out.
The Crimson pressured through the rest of the first half and put up a smattering of shots through the middle of the second half. One of Harvard’s best chances came after the intermission, when junior Mike Fucito ran onto a through ball from sophomore Andre’ Akpan. Fucito outran his defender, but his one-on-none shot missed just wide.
“Today is just one of those days where the ball wasn’t meant to go in the goal,” co-captain Matt Hoff said. “I just don’t think it was meant for us to come back today.”
It was not just bad luck that kept the Crimson out of the Big Green net. Dartmouth boasts the stingiest defense in the Ivy League, having given up only seven goals all season for an average of 0.5 goals per game. And although this is the first time Harvard has been shut out all year, it is the ninth time the Big Green defense has blanked an opponent this season.
“It was a typical Harvard-Dartmouth soccer game—kind of a battle, and kind of unlucky there in the end when we did not get a goal,” Hahn said.
One thing that did go well for the Crimson was its goaltending. Hahn, although only credited with four saves, had a much bigger day than the statistics would indicate.
His greatest effort came in the waning minutes with Harvard trying to find the equalizer. Dartmouth lined up a free kick outside the 18-yard box that looked destined for the upper corner the moment it was struck. Just inches before the ball crossed the goal plane, Hahn leaped across the net and punched the shot over the crossbar to keep the game within one.
“Another great game,” Hoff said of Hahn’s performance. “He really gave us a chance—that one save was unbelievable. It is just a shame for him to have another loss in his column.”
That loss will prove to be very costly for the Crimson. With two Ivy League defeats, Harvard has all but squandered its chances of reclaiming the Ivy League title.
Without the league championship, the Crimson will have to rely on a selection committee to grant it an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament.
—Staff writer Julia R. Senior can be reached at email@example.com.