It is The Game before The Game. Harvard and Yale meet each other in more than one sport this weekend. The Crimson men's soccer team will host the Elis at Ohiri Field Saturday morning at 10:30 a.m.
Last year Harvard and Yale played on a freezing cold weekend for a pair of Ivy League titles--soccer and football. The Crimson brought both trophies home to Cambridge. This season, no title is on the line in either sport.
But while thousands of Harvard alumni tailgate across the street in The Stadium parking lot, the Crimson (7-4-3 overall, 4-1-1 Ivy) will be battling for a little respect, a little final-game brilliance. A team that went from a top national ranking to the middle of the Ivy League has something left to prove.
"It's a chance to finish on a high note," Harvard Coach Mike Getman said. "It is the last game for seven very important people--our seniors--and they want to go out winners."
Win or lose Saturday, Harvard will finish third in the Ivy League. The championship was decided a week earlier than the Crimson would have liked--Princeton and Dartmouth finished their seasons with wins last weekend, giving both a share of the league crown.
Even though Yale (1-3-2 Ivy) will finish near the bottom of the Ivy pack, the Elis will be no simple challenge for the Crimson. Yale was the only league team to make the national rankings during the season, having defeated formidable non-league foes Connecticut and Seton Hall. Harvard had been listed first in the pre-season predictions.
"They play similar to the way we do," Getman said. "We are a good team in possession of the ball and we create opportunities, but we haven't been very good at finishing them. I think they're having the same problem."
On Top Together: The Tigers and the Big Green are sharing title honors this season, each finishing with a 6-1 league mark. Dartmouth fell to Princeton during the regular season, and the Tigers lost their only game to the Crimson.
The Harvard-Yale match-up is the only Ivy contest yet to be played.
Tournament News: Connecticut and Boston University battled for the New England region championship last weekend, with the Terriers taking the title, 3-1. Changes in the tournament format--it is now played out according to seedings, rather than regions--mean that B.U. will travel to Indiana for its second-round contest.
Fresno St., which Harvard beat 2-1 in the Hartford Tournament in September, was the Crimson's only other competitor to make the playoffs. Fresno St. received an automatic bid after winning the Big West conference.
More Pain: Sophomore sweeper Nick Gates, who suffered a fractured orbit of the eye in practice last Friday, is unlikely to play in Saturday's contest. Freshmen Lenny Ilkhanoff and Josh Morris will both be sidelined with knee injuries.
Junior forward Derek Mills is not yet back full strength after undergoing knee surgery four weeks ago, but is expected to play.
Goodbye, Guys: There will be seven seniors playing in their final game Saturday: Captain Robert Bonnie, goalies Stephen Hall and Chad Reilly, midfielders Ramy Rajballie and F.J. Gould and backs Gian D'Ornellas and Louis Lyons.
"We just want to go out and have some fun," Bonnie said. "We're going to enjoy the last game."