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Over at 50 Boylston St. yesterday, soccer coach J. Bruce Munro wasn't handing out the usual pre-season optimism. Last year his players were Ivy champions. This year he's predicting a tough struggle in which any of three teams could come out ahead of the Crimson.
Everything looked fine until about a week ago. Thirteen lettermen were scheduled to return--among them, nine of the eleven starters. The Crimson also boasted three All-Ivies in Chris Ohiri, Billy Ward, and captain Tony Davies. When Harvard Sports Information asked Munro about prospects earlier this month, he had to admit the Crimson looked like a hands-down winner.
But then came a series of events that coaches around here have learned to fear.
First, Munro learned that Billy Ward, the Jamaican center-half who was the backbone of last year's team, had decided to take the year off "to think things over." The Crimson had built its whole game on Ward, depending upon his astounding command of the field and his well-placed feeds to the wings. He was a master feinter and the crowds loved to watch him squeeze by a line of defenders. Anyway, he isn't back this season, and the Crimson will be hardpressed for a successor.
As practices began in earnest across from Soldiers Field this week, there were two more absentees: Ghanaians Emmanuel ("Mamma") Boye and Ebenezer Klufio. Both started last year, Boye at right half, Klufio at right wing. According to Munro, the boys, who plan engineering careers, are considering sitting out this season to keep up their grades. The search for replacements has started, but there are no experienced candidates around.
Monro has one more worry: goalie John Adams who saved the Yale game last year with his daring leaps, is unable to play. Adams' understudy, Wally Whitney, will have to do the job almost alone. since soph Jim Tyng lacks experience.
With Ward gone from the lineup, Munro cannot go ahead with his plan to move half-back Davies up to the attacking line. Davies has a hefty boot and hustles; he proved his value in the forward line when he came through with a crucial goal in the Yale game last year.
But Munro has decided that Davies is the only man who can play Ward's key position. He will probably be flanked by junior Dave Clapp on the right, and soph Lawrence Coburn on the left.
But the Crimson's hopes ultimately rest on the front line. In other words, Chris Ohiri, the Crimson's fabled center-forward from Oweeri, Nigeria, is back after sitting out most of the last season with a ripped knee cartilage. After a winter operation, Ohiri competed successfully in track this spring, and is in top shape now.
A dribbler par excellence, Ohiri often carries the ball all the way downfield, and then scores. He boots with a vengeance. Once last year he stunned a goalie with a shot, now he refuses to kick direct penalty shots for fear of hurting the goalie. In half a season last year, he found the nets 14 times and was Ivy highscorer with eight goals.
Ohiri will be supported by a somewhat weaker front line this year. Mike Kramer, a junior, or Sam Thompson, a soph, will be at left wing: John Thorndike is at left inside; at right inside either Al Chang or George Draper will have trouble equalling Seamus Malin's performance of last year; and the right wing position is Klufio's if he will have it; if not, it's anybody's guess.
The rest of the Ivy League is tougher this year. Munro isn't worried about Brown, who beat Harvard 5-0 last year and finished second. Penn, Princeton, and Dartmouth are the stiff competitors in his book--Yale, Cornell, and Columbia are slated to fill out the bottom of the League
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