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Princeton has only one. Harvard has nary a one.
We're talking about Ivy League losses, and this slight difference in the league ledger sets the Crimson apart--and on top. The Harvard men's soccer team (5-3-1 overall, 2-0-1 Ivy) leads the Ancient Eight, but places its undefeated league status in jeopardy for the first time in two weeks tonight against the Tigers (5-4-1 overall, 2-1-1 Ivy) in Princeton, N.J.
More than the inside track to the Ivy title rests on the outcome, however. Since every Ivy team has stumbled against outside competition, it seems likely only the winner of the league--which receives the automatic bid--will advance to the NCAA tournament.
The Virginia Cavaliers, the unbeaten, untied, returning NCAA champion, knocked off Princeton, 2-0, last Sunday, and Virginia Coach Bruce Arena was realistic about the Ancient Eight's NCAA tourney prospects.
"The fact of the situation is that the Ivy League will probably not get a second bid," Arena said.
Harvard Coach Stephen Locker, who is coaching at the Division I level for the first time this year, agreed: "I don't think it's there this year."
"I expected a little better ball from the Ivies," said Locker. "Generally, it's one of the top two or three leagues in the country."
As a result, Harvard's only shot at keeping post-season hopes alive is to win the Ivies.
Along with Dartmouth, the Tigers are the biggest roadblock. And the road, despite the season-opening overtime win over Columbia, has not been kind to the Crimson. A pair of losses--at Hartwick in overtime and a flop against a weak Maine team--blemish Harvard's away record.
Virginia Coach Arena marked Princeton midfielders Joe Thieman and Thad McBride as premier players, and was also impressed with the play of Tigers defender Tyson Hom.
"Princeton plays an attractive brand of soccer, though they are a little limited with their attackers," Arena said.
Princeton Coach Bob Bradley is hopeful that the return of senior forward David Hocher, who has missed four straight games, will bolster the talent-thin part of his squad. Bradley was hopeful that the relative quality of each team's last opponent will count for something--which also concerns Locker.
"Playing on that level only means something if you can follow it up," Bradley said. "We feel it is a really key Ivy League game, if we're going to stay in contention."
"I guarantee [Princeton] learned a lot down there [in Virginia]," Locker warned.
The Crimson, after a string of short, intense practice sessions, enter the weekend with a nearly complete squad.
Sophomore back Tom Marcotullio has recovered from the illness which kept him out of the Hofstra blowout. Senior goaltender Scott Salisbury, who has not practiced all week while nursing a sore back, should play tonight. His compatriot on Harvard's last line of defense, freshman Ned Carlson, has also suffered from back spasms, but could play.
Only freshman back Neal Leavitt is questionable against the Tigers with a sprained ankle, though he may play the Pennsylvania game Sunday.
There will be no changes among the midfielders and forwards--who led the team last Saturday.
Derek Swaim, whose five goals and three assists tie him for second in scoring, will need to team with Captain Jason Luzak (sixth in scoring) and freshman Chris Wojick (ninth) to attack a much tougher defense than that offered by the Flying Dutchmen.
Still, despite the success, Locker showed some concern about his team's ability to ignore the circumstances and just play soccer.
"Every game we walk into, I believe we're going to win," Locker said. "But a couple of times [Cornell and Maine] the real Harvard has not shown up."
"If the real Harvard men's soccer team shows up, it should be a very exciting game," Locker said.
And the Crimson might just keep that golden goose egg in the Ivy
League loss column.
Ivy League Overall W-L-T Pct GF/GA W-L-T Pct Harvard 2-0-1 .833 8/6 5-3-1 . 611 Columbia 3-1-0 .750 10/5 6-4-1
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