It’s been an inconsistent start to the year for the Harvard men’s soccer team, which dropped a heartbreaking match to Vermont on a late-game header last Sunday, giving the squad its third loss of the year.
But despite a few early season slip-ups, the Crimson (2-3) has plenty of reason to like its chances moving forward, thanks in part to the play of an emerging freshmen class.
Midfielder Tim Schmoll, forward Michael Inoccenzi, and forward Hiroki Kobayashi have stepped into key roles in the team’s rotation during their rookie campaigns. All have seen significant game action thus far—Innoccenzi has seen time in all five games, while Schmoll and Kobayashi have each played in four and registered three starts between the two of them.
“I didn’t really expect to play just because I was a freshman,” said Schmoll. “But now that I have experience on the field, I feel really comfortable.”
This rising comfort level has been evident amongst all three freshmen. Schmoll assisted on Harvard’s lone goal against the University of Rhode Island and has had a solid presence in the midfield.
“[Schmoll] always influences the game one way or the other, with his pure physical presence and his ability to win a lot of headers,” Crimson coach Carl Junot said.
Inoccenzi is becoming a focal point of the Harvard offense after drawing two penalty kicks against UMass last week, the second of which resulted in an overtime victory for the squad. Kobayashi’s speed up front has also made him an ever-present threat.
The entire Crimson squad is trying to reverse a trend in which the team has only put home three goals in five games. But one may need to look no farther than the freshmen—who have been directly involved in two-thirds of the club’s scoring to this point—for some help.
The trio’s smooth adjustment to the fast-paced play of Division I soccer is all the more impressive considering how they got here. Schmoll, who grew up in Geneva, Switzerland, but whose parents are both American, has had to adjust to living on the other side of the Atlantic, while juggling a busy schedule of classes and soccer practices.
“There were a ton of nerves in the beginning,” Schmoll said about the transition. “I had no experience of what it would be like over here.”
Schmoll, who played in Switzerland’s National Academies League at the U18 level, saw Harvard as a natural fit.
“I always wanted to come to college here,” he said. “I just never thought I would actually be able to do it.”
Schmoll attended the same high school in Switzerland as Kwaku Nvamekye ’10, a former Crimson standout who was able to make an initial connection and get the ball rolling on the freshman’s recruitment.
Kobayashi was equally excited about his chance to come play for the Crimson.
“Harvard was always my first choice,” he explained. “But the first time I got an email from them, I thought, ‘There’s no way I could actually go there.’”