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It was a reinvigorated Harvard men's soccer team that left for Princeton yesterday afternoon.
To play at the level of excellence the soccer team has accompalished all season inevitably takes a toll on the players. Fortunately the 10-day break the Crimson is coming off came just in time, allowing it a much needed rest before what will be their most crucial series of matches in the season, beginning with what is predicted to be an intense night game at Princeton on today.
With an imposing record of 9-1 (3-1, Ivy) the team is in great position as it enters the final leg to take the Ivy League crown and the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament that accompanies it.
Well aware of this, the players are united on the idea of playing each game intensely and overlooming no one on their daunting schedule which includes a much awaited confrontation with Dartmouth, the current leader in the Ivy League division.
After years of frustration, the holy grail of the Ivy League championship is finally in sight for the Crimson. The players know that the elusive title is in their reach.
"We our realizing our potential this year. The team's intensity and togetherness have been invaluable," senior midfielder Kevin Silva said. "Everyone understands their role. The rest takes care of itself."
The Crimson will take a nine game winning streak into its match today against Princeton. Despite the Tigers' less-than intimidating record, the Crimson has mentally prepared itself for what they feel with be a grueling match.
"Every Ivy League game is a challenge in itself," Silva said. "It will be a battle."
"It's the biggest game of the year for us at this point in the season," senior midfielder T.J. Carella said. "We're anxious to get out there."
While Harvard has steamrolled its last nine opponents, Dartmouth lost last week against Cornell. Harvard knows it has to seize this opportunity. There is no doubt among the players that they have to defeat Princeton. If Harvard wins its next three Ivy League, matches against the Princeton, Dartmouth and Brown, the championship is theirs.
"We have complete control of our destiny," Carella said.
Frustrated by their own football and soccer team's woeful play, well below their expectations, the Princeton fans will come out in full force and as rowdy as possible with nothing more than the hope of playing spoiler to Harvard, their annual rivals.
Consequently, the game tonight has all the makings of a prime time match.
"It will be an exciting atmosphere," freshman Will Hench said.
Both sides realize that in addition to the exciting atmosphere that will be present during the match, it will also be a hard fought game. Most of the Crimson players look forward to the rowdy Princeton crowd.
"I like that aspect," Carella said. "It makes the game more exciting."
The team's previous match, last Tuesday, was also a night game. Away against Maine, Harvard won 5-1 in what may have been their best all around play this season. By the end of the half, the Crimson was dominating the game 4-0.
Junior forward Tom McLaughlin, who leads the Ivy League in scoring with 24 points and gave Harvard its second hat trick of the year in the game against Maine, hopes the team will come out with the same intensity it has shown in other games.
"Everybody is refreshed," Silva said. "We're going to come out on the attack."
Sophomore goalie Jordan Dupuis and senior goalie Peter Albers are expected to bar the Tigers' advance. Their combined play is one of the many reasons for the Crimson's success.
"Everyone wants to continue the trend we've been on of winning game in and game out," Carella said.
The Crimson will take this winning attitude into Princeton tonight.
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