The Harvard men’s soccer team traveled west for its final weekend before the start of Ivy League play but returned empty-handed, falling to Cal Poly on Friday night, 2-1, and to No. 3 UC Santa Barbara, 1-0, on Sunday afternoon.
NO. 3 UC SANTA BARBARA 1, HARVARD 0
Facing one of the highest-ranked opponents on its schedule, the Harvard men’s soccer team failed to tie up the match in the final stretch after allowing an early goal. The Crimson eventually fell, 1-0, to the Gauchos on Sunday afternoon at Meredith Field at Harder Stadium.
With the Crimson (1-5-1) already down a goal 14 minutes into the match, it appeared that UC Santa Barbara (6-0-2) would lengthen its lead in the 33rd minute after junior forward Dom Sarle sent a header toward the left corner of the net.
The Gauchos’ fans were already cheering before they noticed that Harvard freshman goalkeeper Joe Festa had dexterously managed the save.
“It was a shot that shouldn’t have been saved,” junior defender Ross Friedman said. “He dove and barely got a fingertip on it…. Joe came up absolutely huge for us.”
Festa finished with a total of eight saves on the afternoon, limiting UC Santa Barbara to a single score. But it wasn’t enough, as Harvard was unable to find the back of the net on its three shots.
From the starting whistle, the Gauchos midfield pressured relentlessly, keeping the ball on the Crimson defensive end for the majority of the first half. After placing three shots on goal within the first 12 minutes, UC Santa Barabara scored its lone goal in the 14th minute when junior forward Javier Castro headed in a cross that senior defender Peter McGlynn sent into the six-yard box. The Gauchos’ offense continued to apply pressure and kept Harvard from having any offensive chances, topping the Crimson in shots, 8-0, and in corner kicks, 1-0, in the first period.
“I think UCSB came out strong, with a lot of movement off of the ball, so we were on our heels during the first half,” Friedman said. “We were definitely a little frustrated after the first period.”
Moving into the second half, the pace of the game began to shift in Harvard’s favor and the Gauchos’ defense scrambled. Crimson players credited the team’s endurance with its ability to penetrate the Gauchos’ midfield.
“All year we’ve been stressing the importance of fitness,” senior forward Zack Wolfenzon said. “We knew that UCSB would be a good, quick team, but eventually they would give in. We were the fitter team. We really went after them in the second half.”
The Crimson managed to get three shots in the final period, but each was off target. The Gauchos had chances as well, finishing with eight shots of their own in the frame. But thanks in large part to the play of Festa, UC Santa Barbara was unable to capitalize.
“I think going forward, Joe will be playing with a lot more confidence knowing he contested so well against a No. 3 team,” Friedman said. “He just showed a lot of confidence coming in as the backup goalie.”
Although the game ended in a loss, the Harvard team was pleased with its overall performance.
“I was really impressed during the second half.... We had so many chances,” Friedman said. “We really responded well to the No. 3 team in the country. They were a really excellent team.”