For the past two years, Harvard has entered its match against the University of Connecticut ranked sixth in the country, its highest ranking in school history.
In 2009, any hopes of moving up in the polls were dashed as the Crimson was handily defeated at the hands of the Huskies by a score of 4-0. Harvard managed only two shots on goal compared to the opponent’s nine.
The sound defeat last year influenced the manner in which many returning starters prepared for this year’s rematch against UConn. It was no different for junior goalkeeper Austin Harms.
“Walking off the field last year after that UConn game was one of the most embarrassing few minutes…[of] my entire year,” Harms said. “After the crowd lays into you like that…particularly at me being in goal…it was a humbling experience.”
Spurred by memories of last year’s game, the Winthrop House resident ramped up his preparation not only for the tenth-ranked Huskies—which Harms labeled as “a perennial powerhouse”—but also for the crowd.
“The atmosphere there is powerful; it’s intense,” Harms said, describing it as “four thousand people screaming at you.”
Harms’ work paid dividends. This time around, despite facing 25 shots from the Huskies’ attack, Harms surrendered only one goal, playing a key role in the 1-1 tie last Saturday. In fact, UConn’s lone score came on a penalty kick in the 44th minute after a hand ball was called in the box.
“He really stepped up his game,” senior forward Alex Chi said. “He was really focused, he was composed, and he made the saves he needed to make.”
“Austin played out of his mind,” sophomore forward Zach Wolfenzon said.
Perhaps Harms’ most important and outstanding save came in the second period of overtime. As the Huskies pressed downfield, UConn forward Mamadou Diouf received the ball within the box, spun to create enough separation from the defenders, and fired a shot that Harms tipped just enough to knock over the crossbar.
“[Diouf] just turned and launched a rocket,” Harms said. “If that went in, the game would have been over.”
“I don’t know how [Harms] did it,” Chi added.
In addition to the 25 shots—compared to the Crimson’s six—the Huskies also had nine corner kicks as opposed to Harvard’s two. Nevertheless, UConn’s constant pressure did not faze Harms.
Harms’ three saves did not do justice to his performance; he repeatedly pressured the Huskies’ offense, causing the frontline to only manage four shots on goal.
“His presence in goal is not just his shot saving [but also] when they cross the ball and he comes out,” Chi said.