Survival was the name of the game, as Harvard held on to beat Boston University in a dramatic, 2-1 double-overtime finish at Nickerson Field Tuesday night. After ending regulation play locked in a 1-1 tie, the Crimson (2-7-3, 0-2-1 Ivy) finally came through to secure the win against the Terriers (4-6-4, 1-1-2 America East).
Senior forward Zack Wolfenzon’s game winner came as a relief for Harvard, which struggled all night under a barrage of offensive firepower from BU. Wolfenzon capitalized on a cross from junior forward Connor McCarthy and found the back of the net in the 106th minute of play, handing the Crimson its second win of the season.
“We have had our fair share of games where we outplayed the other team and ended up losing,” Wolfenzon said. “We figured we just needed to keep holding on, keep working, and it would come.”
Harvard came away with the win despite being offensively outmatched in shots, shots on goal, and corner kicks. Freshman goalkeeper Evan Mendez was a major contributor to the effort, notching eight saves in his sixth start of the season to keep the Crimson within striking distance the entire game.
“BU had really good possession of the ball, but they were also vulnerable on the counterattack,” Harvard coach Carl Junot said. “We absorbed a lot of pressure, but our back line helped us out a lot until we got offensive chances. Goals are what matter, not shots and corner kicks.”
Both teams struggled offensively in the first half, and the score remained 0-0 heading into halftime. The Crimson recorded just one shot on goal in the period.
But Harvard picked up offensive momentum after the break, scoring the first goal of the game in the 49th minute. Freshman forward Oliver White, who came into the game near the end of the second half, headed the ball past the Terriers’ goalkeeper Nick Thompson off a free kick from 30 yards out. It was White’s third goal of the season, which puts him atop his team’s offensive leaderboard.
“Coach Junot has been emphasizing just putting the ball in the back of the net in practice,” Wolfenzon said. “The way you practice is the way you play, and we [have been] scoring a lot in practice.”
Junot was pleased with Harvard’s offensive output and said that the work put in during practice appears to be paying off.
“We have been spending a lot of time in training on free kicks, so to score that way was encouraging,” Junot said. “The second goal was a counterattack, which we have also been working on. The key to having a good offense is to have the ability to execute, beginning to end. We did that tonight.”
BU’s first shot on goal did not come until the 47th minute, when sophomore forward Dominique Badji tried to power one past Mendez, who recorded a save on the play. But once the Terriers got going, the Crimson defense was hard pressed to keep them at bay.
The offensive advantage swung heavily in the direction of the Terriers, who earned 12 corner kicks and took 19 shots in the second half. Badji and sophomore forward Powell Parker led BU’s offense with a combined 15 shots, five on goal.
The Terriers’ offensive pressure paid off in the game’s 69th minute, when Badji drilled the ball into the net from 25 yards out for his third goal of the season.
“You just have to keep playing and keep believing that you are going to pull one out,” Wolfenzon said. “Mendez had a couple unbelievable saves that kept us in the game.”
Harvard ended the night with seven shots, dipping below its season average of 12 shots per game, but strong defense and goalkeeping compensated for the lack of offensive opportunities.
“Richard Smith at center back was tremendous tonight, just making last ditch saves in front of the goal,” Junot said. “We showed a lot of grit and determination to get the result.”