The Harvard men’s soccer season has suffered some heartbreaking losses, with its single win of the season occurring over a month ago against Michigan State.
Since beating the Spartans, the Crimson (1-7-3, 0-2-1 Ivy) has competed in eight games, tying two of them and dropping the other six.
Harvard has traveled as far afield as California this season, but Tuesday’s upcoming match is right down the road against Boston University (4-6-4, 1-1-2 America East) at 7 p.m. at Nickelson Field.
The game will be the Crimson’s second-to-last non-conference game for the season. Since Harvard has played three ranked teams on its schedule so far, the Terriers are—on paper—a less formidable opponent than those it has faced in the past.
“We are pretty excited to take on BU,” junior defender Ross Friedman said. “We feel as though we have a good chance. They have had a similar season as us—playing a tough schedule and not getting the outcomes. It should be an exciting match.”
Although the Crimson has not registered many wins, its matches have consistently ended with a difference of only one goal. No. 3 UC Santa Barbara edged out Harvard, 2-1, while No. 19 Brown barely clinched a one-goal victory over the Crimson, 2-1, in overtime.
“What’s going to be the difference?” Friedman said. “How are we going to come up 2-1 on the other side? We’re losing by that one goal, a late goal, when somehow the ball sneaks in behind us. How can we be on the other side of that? That’s what we’re figuring out right now.”
Harvard has not had much luck in conference play, with its last in-conference victory coming on Nov. 13, 2010, against Penn. The Crimson is ranked sixth in the Ancient Eight—tied with Yale, which Harvard tied, 0-0, earlier in the season.
Since a league title seems out of reach for the Crimson, this match against BU is a welcome break from the pressures of conference play in which Harvard can build momentum and confidence down the home stretch.
“It’s another non-Ivy league game,” senior forward Zack Wolfenzen said. “I only have a few more games wearing that Harvard jersey and, quite frankly, I’m pumped up for every single one of them. I think I can say the same for the other seniors. It’s a chance to do what we love.”
Tuesday night’s matchup will be the closest game to home for Crimson for the rest of the month. The next, and final, home game will be Senior Night against Columbia on Nov. 3.
Although the Terriers have beaten Harvard in the past two contests, 2-1, the Crimson has historically gotten the best of its crosstown rivals with an overall record of 23-14-6. Both teams have losing records this season, but BU has registered three more wins than Harvard. The Crimson and the Terriers both lost to Brown and UConn, so their records point to an even match.
“You want to get results,” Friedman said “You want to win.”
Leading the Harvard offense with two goals apiece, freshman Jake Freeman, sophomore Hiroki Kobayashi and freshman Oliver White will challenge the BU defense led by Sanford Spivey, a 2011 America East All-Rookie team honoree. The Terrier defense is lacking America East Defender of the Year Kelvin Madzongwe, who has been injured since September.
The Crimson defense faces a threatening BU attack with leading scorer sophomore forward Parker Powell and playmaker junior Anthony Ciccone. Harvard freshmen goalies Joe Festa and Evan Mendez—who have split time this season in relief of presumptive starter Brett Conrad—have save percentages of 0.714 and 0.688, respectively.
“Right now we’re really asking ourselves, can we win a game that we aren’t supposed to win?” Friedman said. “Can we sneak a goal in? Can we be the team to give a little hell first?”
As the Crimson tries to find its identity, its spirits remain high, with the team recognizing its unrealized potential to perform at a high level.
“We are a good team. That’s what makes it fun,” Wolfenzen said. “We’ve had teams in the past where we had even better records than the one we have now, but people checked out. We have a great group of guys who work hard every day. That’s what makes me come back day in and day out.”