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Forget Beckenbauer, Pele, and Diego. The Harvard men's soccer team needs to think Reggie Jackson this year.
No, the recently elected Hall of Famer hasn't turned his bat in for a pair of cleats.
But he is Mr. October, and for the Crimson the month famous for the World Series and Halloween is very important.
Last season, rookie head coach Stephen Locker and the Crimson snatched four early victories and finished September with a perfect record. Harvard also won its two games in November easily to close out the year.
October, however, proved to be an entirely different story. As the summer finished its transition into fall, the Crimson's season changed as well, and, unfortunately for Harvard, in intercollegiate soccer October is the longest and often the cruelest month.
The Crimson lost seven of its nine games in 1992's October and saw its perfect start turn into another 7-7-1 year.
Injuries and fatigue attacked Harvard right at the heart of its season, and when Locker the magician stuck his hand into his bag of tricks, he found that it just wasn't deep enough.
"We lost player to injuries and didn't have enough depth to recover," Locker said.
That's why in his second season, Locker has stressed the importance of conditioning and has bolstered his lineup with the addition of some talented rookies.
Last year's captain and charismatic scorer Jason Luzak '93 has left, but Locker starts this season with a group of 14 veterans led by captain and midfielder Joe Bradley.
Locker said he has faith in the strong core of veterans that have returned and in Bradley's ability to lead the team on the field.
"Joe will always be steady for us," Locker said. "He gets his teammates going and is a very good vocal leader."
To fill some of the holes in his lineup, however, Locker has brought in a group of highly touted and talented freshman whom he believes will contribute quickly.
"We have experienced veterans, but we also have experienced freshmen," Locker said. "Some of our veteran players may end up coming off the bench."
Foremost among the rookies is Will Kohler, a forward Locker said is "the most talented we've seen in a long time."
Locker said that Kohler turned down chances to play for perennial powers and national champions Virginia and Duke to join the ranks here in Cambridge.
Kohler is one of four Crimson rookies from the Philadelphia area who played with each other on club teams and who will help Harvard survive in an increasingly competitive Ivy league.
Defender Tariq Jawad, defensive midfielder T.J. Carella, and midfielder Kevin Silva are the other three freshman sensations from Pennsylvania.
With Kohler up front and last year's second leading scorers junior forward Derek Swaim and sophomore midfielder Chris Wojcik, the loss of Luzak and forward Juan Betancourt '93 to graduation may not hurt all that much. Swaim and Wojcik each tallied 14 points last year and played large roles in the team's early heroics.
Sophomore Taadeh Sheriff returns to the midfield with Bradley and Wojcik, while junior sweeper Craig Brill, senior Ping Li, Jawad and Tom Marcotullio will lead the backs into action.
Untested goalie sophomore Ned Carlson will guard the net for the Crimson, but Locker said Carlson has looked good in preseason.
Around The Ancient Eight
Six of the Ivy league's eight teams have a shot at the title this year, according to Locker.
"There's great parity in the league this season," Locker said.
Last year's Ivy champion Dartmouth and runner up Princeton are the preseason favorites, but Locker said that every other team except for Pennsylvania and Cornell has a legitimate chance at the Ancient Eight crown and an NCAA tournament appearance. Locker also said Dartmouth is a very good team and will be looking for respect that it believes it has been denied.
And when does the Crimson face the Big Green? October 30 in Hanover, N.H. Of course, Harvard has to get through the rest of the month first, and, like Jackson, make that time of the year its time of the year.
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