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Although not everyone on the Harvard men's soccer team will be present on Ohiri Field today, the show must go on and will start promptly at 11:00 a.m.
The Crimson, which has watched its players fall to injury as this season comes apart at the seams, must enter this morning's contest against Dartmouth with rebuilding on its collective mind.
The Ivy League title is technically still within reach, but the Crimson cannot expect Dartmouth, Columbia and Princeton to bend to Harvard's will.
The Crimson (5-6-1 overall, 2-2-1 Ivy) faced Dartmouth (7-4-2 overall, 4-1-0 Ivy) in a remarkably similar situation one year ago.
Then, the Big Green were fighting for the Ivy title, and Harvard was searching for a final high note in an otherwise mediocre season.
Now, well, nothing has changed. For the Crimson, thoughts of last year's match are fond memories. A 3-1 Harvard victory spoiled Dartmouth's quest for a second Ivy title, and denied Dartmouth another trip to the NCAA tourney.
The Big Green have not forgotten their stumble; though Dartmouth needs to beat Columbia in its season final to edge out the Lions for bragging rights in the Ancient Eight--and the automatic NCAA bid--not one of the visitors assumes anything.
"We played pretty well at Harvard last year, and we didn't get much out of it," Dartmouth Coach Bobby Clark said. "I'm sure the lads haven't forgotten that."
But Clark omitted that this year, Dartmouth faces a Crimson squad which had dropped six out its last eight games. and Harvard is hurting.
Junior Joe Bradley is out for the season with an injured knee. Also missing all three of the Crimson's remaining games is sophomore back Tom Marcotullio.
And Harvard Coach Stephen Locker's personnel troubles continue to mount--Locker was informed yesterday afternoon that senior Kenji Hall played his final game for the Crimson last Wednesday in the loss to Boston College. Hall suffered a knee injury.
"We only have two or three subs," Locker said. "I hope that people can adjust to their roles. I might have to suit up."
Harvard will adapt its play to the situation and the opponent. The offense should attack more directly, attempting to pepper shots at Dartmouth goalkeeper Brain Wiese all game long.
On the Crimson's side of the field, the defense will back off a step or two, to allow for the inexperience of its backfield and the Big Green's superior speed.
Dartmouth's captain, senior Justin Head, has tallied eight goals, and rests just one point ahead of Harvard senior captain Jason Luzak in the scoring race.
Head is followed by a Big Green trio which has added another 12 goals among them.
Harvard can throw sophomore Derek Swaim (5 goals) and freshman Chris Wojcik (4 goals) back at the visitors, but Wiese holds a stellar 1.06 goals-against-average in the Ivy League.
"We'll be happy as long as we play hard," Locker said. "That's what been holding us back at times."
For the record, seven too many times.
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