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The unbeaten fifth ranked Harvard soccer team faces its toughest test of the season this morning at 10:30 when it hosts third-ranked Pennsylvania in a much-awaited showdown for the Ivy title. The game marks the third consecutive year that a Harvard-Penn clash has decided Ivy soccer supremacy.
The two teams are evenly matched, play a similar style of game, and are both strong offensively. Harvard holds a slight offensive edge, while Penn has the stronger defense. The key to the outcome will rest in the ability of the Harvard defense to contain the Quaker's high-scoring offensive line, and the game will hinge on which squad has the most success offensively.
The Crimson, which had hoped to go into the contest relatively injury, free was dealt a damaging blow early in the week when forward Chris Papagianis who has already tied teammate Felix Adedeji's Ivy scoring record of 13 points with four games remaining developed water on his right knee Papagianis will play, but Harvard needs him at something near full efficiency in order to crack a solid Penn defense which allowed Princeton only four shots on net last week.
Adedeji, who has been hampered for most of the season by muscle spasms in his back, has been extremely slow in recovering, but his presence in the starting line-up gives the offense flexibility, and hopefully he will be ready as well.
The Crimson offense, which leads the league in goals scored with 19 and dominates the Ivy scoring statistics, has been prone to injuries all season. At one time or another every starter, with the exception of Dragan Vujovic, has been sidelined. Bent Hinze, the fourth of tensive starter, is healthy after a bothersome groin pull Hinze who Penn coach Bob Seddon terms "the key to their (Harvard's) offense", is tied with the Quaker's John Burke for third place in the scoring race with 6 points.
The Quakers who are 8.0 on the season and have hovered near the top of the national rankings the entire season are unlike Harvard a veteran team. They are solid in every position on the field particularly on defense.
Penn's offense is led by sophmore star George Orieno who has done the bulk of Penn's scoring all season long. He has a sense for the goal gets back and plays good defense and is a team player not an individual star, Harvard Assistant coach Seamus Malin said after after scouting the Quarkers. Also up front are the aforementioned Burke and junior Steve Baumann a second team. All lvy performer last year.
At the midfield position in Penn's 4-2-4 formation are Ran Stockman and All Ivy Larry Houston. They are clever ball handlers. But we have a strong midfield and it should be an even match." Malin said
But it is the Quaker defense that most observers point to as the teams strength. All Ivy back Bill Straub and returning starters Don Ries and John Gribben compose the best fullback corps the Crimson offensive line will face all year. "They have height and speed in the backs, are steady and strong physically, and tackle crisply," Malin said. Goalie Jim Miller leads the league with a 1.0 goals per game average, but because of the strength of the defense in front of him he is an unknown quantity. "We'll probably do some early shooting to find out how good he is," he added.
"The two teams are very closely matched," Malin said Thursday. "The game will be a battle of individual matchups around the field, and it usually comes down to who controls any part of the field," he added. Both squads use primarily a short passing game, which places a large emphasis on control of the midfield area. The team that succeeds in controlling the midfield will have a definite edge.
Surprisingly, both Penn and Harvard have had difficulty in the first half, and both are considered exceptional second half teams. A goal early by either squad might then be less significant considering the second half explosiveness of the two teams.
Harvard, which seems to be relishing its underdog status, has been further inspired by reports of Penn's overconfidence and some comments by Quaker coach Bob Seddon about the Crimson defense. "They've been saying we have the worst fullback line in the league, fullback and captain Ric Scott said yesterday, and it is rather foolish. Their overconfidence is something we are trying to cultivate" he added. With the added incentive of revenging last year's 52 loss to Penn in Philadelphia, the team should have no trouble getting up for today's game. This game means a lot to people. They've been waiting a year for this, Malin said.
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