The cheers from Harvard bench had scarcely subsided when, suddenly, the ball was in the Crimson net, and the cheers were coming from the opposing team.
If this theme sounds familiar, that’s because it is—for the second game in a row, Harvard scored to pull ahead and surrendered its lead minutes afterward.
In the Crimson’s mid-week matchup against Providence, Harvard was able to claim victory anyway, but against Princeton (7-5-2, 2-2) on Saturday, the setback was more costly. No. 9 Harvard (10-3-1, 2-1-1 Ivy) could not score again in regulation and surrendered the game-winning goal in the second overtime to lose to the Tigers, 2-1.
“It’s disappointing,” said second-year head coach Jamie Clark. “It’s one of those things that becomes unacceptable when you’ve done it twice in a row.”
The upset threatens the Crimson’s Ivy League championship chances—Dartmouth has a 3-0 record, so Harvard must count on both winning the remainder of their Ivy League matchups and the Big Green dropping points to another conference team.
The loss came as a huge disappointment for both coaches and players.
“We could’ve played better,” Clark said. “I don’t think we connected a pass in probably 55 minutes. We thought we had to win, and we kind of lost composure to pass the ball. [Princeton] did too, to be honest. It just became an ugly fight.”
Another factor was the conditions, for a rainy Saturday morning left Ohiri Field a slippery mess for both teams.
“[The rain] didn’t help the quality of play,” Clark said. “But you have to be able to play in pockets, and we didn’t find pockets to play in.”
The game was back and forth for the first half, with few good chances for either team. But in the 66th minute, co-captain Andre Akpan broke away and was tripped by the Tigers’ goalie in the box. On the ensuing penalty kick, Akpan wrong-footed the keeper and calmly slotted the ball into the bottom left corner.
“The goalkeeper made contact,” Clark said of the foul call. “Good forwards drag their legs to ensure contact, and if there’s contact that’s a foul.”
Akpan’s tenth goal of the season leaves him two away from the Harvard record, but the excitement was short-lived. A mere 20 seconds later, Princeton infiltrated the Crimson defense and knocked the ball into the Harvard net.
“The ball just kind of slipped through,” senior defender Kwaku Nyamekye said. “We were kind of caught off guard.”
While the Crimson defense, and Nyamekye in particular, did a good job of containing the Tigers for the rest of regulation, Harvard could not put together anything of its own.
“Certain plays we didn’t capitalize on,” Nyamekye said. “At the end of the day, it just comes down to one or two plays.”