When a young team has a mediocre season, there is always room for optimism.
There is room for improved skills.
There is the expectation that the team will gel over time and gain experience in pressure situations.
Thus, when the Harvard men's soccer team finished last season with a 6-7 record (3-4 Ivy), Harvard fans could rest assured that this season would bring more wins.
The Crimson was only graduating one player, defender John Shue, and with the return of eight seniors and five juniors, the prospects for a successful 1991 campaign were good.
But with nearly half of this year's soccer season completed, Harvard is a disappointing 2-4 (0-2 Ivy) and cannot afford to lose another Ivy match if it hopes to make a run at the Ancient Eight crown.
What happened to the veteran squad that was supposed to be a serious contender for the Ivy League title?
Well, a couple of things.
The Crimson is playing the most difficult schedule in the country and that can wear down a team.
But to attribute Harvard's woes to its tough schedule would give the competition too much credit.
Anyone who has followed the Crimson this season knows that Harvard, for the most part, has out-played its competition. Harvard could just as easily be 5-1 right now.
But it's not, and that is the point.
Granted, the Crimson has suffered some tough breaks. Freak missed shots down the stretch and the absence of players because of red cards has cost the Crimson wins.
But when "what could have been" does not materialize, those tough breaks take on a much greater importance. They become an almost inevitable part of a team's play.
It's like a pitcher who has great stuff but just can't seem to put any wins on the board. Or an NBA ballplayer who has great athletic ability but never develops into a superstar.
Of course, when you are dealing with a team, a slight change in chemistry could turn a whole season around, but the more the Crimson loses, regardless of the level of its play, the more difficult it becomes to break out of the rut.
Harvard travels to Durham, New Hampshire today to face the Wild-cats (3-3-3). The Crimson faced UNH for the first time last season, grabbing a 2-1 victory at Ohiri Field.
You can talk all you want about the near misses and the mental lapses. You can rack your brains trying to figure out what is wrong with this Harvard squad.
But what Harvard needs right now is pure and simple.
It needs to win.