Perseverance may have helped Harvard men’s soccer take the lead against the Monmouth Hawks, but the Crimson’s talent killed them off.
One scrappy goal—and two well-executed ones—handed 10th-seeded Harvard a 3-0 win over Monmouth (18-2-2) yesterday on Ohiri Field, moving the Crimson into next Sunday’s third round of the NCAA Tournament.
Despite the lopsided scoreline, the victory did not come easily.
“For the most part it was a 1-0 game, and a few moments of brilliance separated the game,” Harvard coach Jamie Clark said. “I thought that was the only difference between the two teams.”
The two vital plays came in the game’s final minutes.
With the Crimson (14-3-1) up 1-0 with 14 minutes left to play, sophomore Tim Linden won back possession on the left side of midfield. Linden played the ball up to the feet of co-captain Andre Akpan—recently named the Ivy League Player of the Year—who one-touched it back to freshman Scott Prozeller. The rookie then sent the ball through to freshman Brian Rogers, who was streaking down the left sideline. Rogers was brought down, but the ball fell into Akpan’s path, leading the referee to allow the advantage. Akpan ran at the Hawks defense before firing the ball into the back of the net with his left foot to double Harvard’s lead. The beautiful team goal was Akpan’s 47th of his career, moving him into first place on the Crimson’s all-time list, alongside Chris Ohiri ’64.
Eight minutes later, sophomore Jamie Rees was fouled a few yards outside the box. Senior Adam Rousmaniere curled the free kick around the wall and into the bottom right corner of the net to assure Harvard of a spot in the Tournament’s Sweet 16.
“[Rousmaniere] said ‘leave it, let me put it in,’” Akpan said. “And he did—he hit it perfectly right into the corner.”
The match was billed as a showdown between two of the nation’s best defenses, but in its final two tallies, the Crimson displayed its ability to create goals as well. Harvard’s potent attack will need to be on its game next week when the Crimson faces Maryland—the defending national champion—on Sunday.
With that game scheduled over Thanksgiving break, Harvard may have a tough time matching the 1,312 fans that were in attendance for the win over Monmouth. The Hawks brought a large contingent of their own to Cambridge, and the opposing sets of fans were going at each other for much of the game.
And the same could be said of the players on the field.
The early minutes of the game were absent of any significant scoring opportunities, but they did display a biting ferocity from both teams.
“It was two teams butting heads from the beginning,” Akpan said. “I’m pretty confident in the physicality of our team, and it showed today.”
Harvard may have been handed a better seed in the tournament, but Monmouth was ranked higher in the NSCAA/adidas National Rankings. The Hawks finished the season at No. 5, while the Crimson was No. 9.
And if results against common opponents were any indication of what was to come, Monmouth had to feel pretty good about its chances. The Hawks came into the game fresh off its first-round, penalty-shootout win over a UConn team that had crushed Harvard, 4-0, earlier in the year.