NEW HAVEN, CONN.--The Harvard men's soccer team wrapped up its season with a convincing 4-1 victory over Yale Saturday morning in the shadow of the Yale Bowl.
The booters' entire season, in fact, has been played in shadow--the shadow of preseason expectations. Harvard (8-6-1 overall, 5-2 Ivy) had begun the year as favorites to capture the Ivy crown and to repeat last season's NCAA post-season tounament appearance.
But although Columbia nabbed the league title, and although the Crimson failed to earn one of the region's two NCAA bids, the booters did succeed in doing to the Bulldogs (5-8-2, 2-3-2) just what the Bulldogs did to the gridders hours later at the Bowl.
After only nine minutes had elapsed, Harvard burst into the lead on a heads-up play by Captain Lane Kenworthy, who worked a shot past goalie Jeff Duback when the Yale defense failed to clear the ball.
The Elis tied the contest three minutes later when Kevin Genda knocked a rebound off Crimson goalie Matt Ginsburg into the net.
In the ensuing 24-minute scoring drought, however, Harvard--boosted by the strong midfield play of Andy Dale and Paul Nicholas--maintained a clear upper hand.
At the 22-minute mark, Nikhil Singh broke one step ahead of two flanking defenders and grounded the ball just wide.
Six minutes later, freshman forward Ramy Rajballie drove a hard shot at Duback from the right side.
And with only 11 minutes remaining in the half, Singh executed one of the game's prettiest moves. Caught in a crowd of defenders outside of the box, the junior pulled a quick half-rotation and lined the ball directly at the goal--but directly at Duback.
Despite the repeated rebuffs, however, the Crimson finally succeeded in snapping the deadlock at 36:17.
Grabbing a pass from Singh, Nicholas sent a chest-high bullet at the charging Duback, who dove in an effort to smother the shot with his body. When the ball squeaked away, Nicholas hopped past the prone netminder and dribbled through the box to tally the eventual game-winner.
Stephen Hall--the freshman goalie kept out of action for part of the season because of a pending NCAA eligibility suit--replaced Ginsburg 10 minutes into the second stanza. And ten minutes after that, the booters put the game away.
Nick Hotchkin bounced an Ian Hardington pass off the left post for the insurance goal at 65:13.
Although the Elis--paced by midfielders Genda and Marc Schindler--began to apply pressure late in the half, their efforts came too late.