At Ohiri Field on Saturday, the Harvard men's soccer team battled the elements and Ivy rival Princeton, with the Crimson prevailing 3-0 in the cold rain that pelted the field.
Not even Mother Nature could rattle the Crimson (5-4-3, 2-1-2 Ivy) as Harvard continued its streak of sharp play. Harvard is unbeaten in its last four games, including a tie against No. 23 Cornell in Ithaca.
Heavy rain battered the field prior to the game, and a miserable drizzle continued throughout the contest, causing some problems for even the most experienced of players.
"I think the field was definitely a factor," said sophomore Ryan Keeton. "It made us play the ball better and made it a tougher game. There were a lot of slide tackles."
The teams battled through a scoreless first half. The momentum swung back and forth slightly, but neither team could capitalize on its scoring chances.
"It was fairly even," said junior Andrew Lundquist. "We had trouble early then took control about halfway through, and then gave them a few scoring chances late in the half."
The Crimson came out of the gates fast in the second half, however, with captain Tom McLaughlin netting two goals within the first 12 minutes of the second half.
The two scoring strikes were almost identical with McLaughlin outrunning the defense to catch up with a lob pass over the top.
Just five minutes into the second half, Lundquist and sophomore Tim Wyant teamed to set up McLaughlin's first goal of the afternoon.
After outrunning the defense, McLaughlin drew Tiger goalie Ethan Bing out of the net and got the ball through his legs.
A little more than six minutes later, Keeton made a nearly identical pass over the defense, and McLaughlin beat the Princeton keeper for the second time.
"They were playing with three flat defenders," Keeton said. "With Tommy's speed, anytime a team plays with three flat defenders, it should be pretty easy to beat that."
The final Harvard tally came in the 72nd minute off the foot of sophomore Juan Carlos Montoy, assisted by fellow classmates Chinezi Chijioke and Will Hench.
While the Harvard attack came to life in the second half, it was the solid, veteran Crimson defense which turned Princeton (6-5-1, 1-2-1) into paper Tigers on this day.
"We had an extra meeting this week, and we discussed the defense a lot," Lundquist said. "It really helped us get organized and mark our men. We've also stayed with the same lineup consistently, and that's helped us get comfortable with each other's play."
The win over Princeton kept alive Harvard's hopes of successfully defending its Ivy League crown. The Crimson is peaking at just the right time, as it faces League leader Dartmouth on Sunday in Hanover, N.H.
"It's the most important Ivy game of the season," Keeton said. "We have to beat them next week, and then they have to tie or lose an Ivy game, and we have to beat everybody."
The Crimson also faces a tough road game at Fairfield on Wednesday. With Dartmouth looming next Sunday, a three-hour bus ride and midterms to face, Harvard will have to focus extra hard in order to defeat Fairfield and carry its current momentum into the showdown with Dartmouth.
Its confidence is high and its playing its best soccer of the year right now. Things are coming together at the ideal time for the Crimson.