The Harvard Men's soccer team would normally be an underdog against the Boston University Terriers. B.U. is, after all, the 17th-ranked team in the nation and boasts a 5-2-1 record. And with this season's paltry start (1-4-1, 1-1 Ivy League), Harvard's hopes seemed dim yesterday facing B.U. at its makeshift home field at the Middlesex School in Concord, MA.
But with a calm confidence, the Crimson battled through 101 minutes of gut-wrenching soccer before winning 2-1 on an unassisted goal by freshman midfielder Matt Peller, his first of the season.
Although B.U.'s Erik Mourembo took a red card in only the 21st minute, the Crimson could not capitalize. Harvard saw its defensive play break down in the 25th minute when a fluke handball by junior midfielder Will Hench in the box gave the Terriers a penalty kick. After forward Sigurd Dalen converted it with a low blast into the twine, B.U. settled into a tight, cautious strategy, choking the Harvard strikers. And so the home team hung on to a 1-goal lead into the break despite being outplayed.
The Crimson continued to push B.U. in the second half with offensive runs thwarted by pesky off-side traps. Harvard got a kick-start from the freshman attack tandem of Jonathan Oslowski and Nick Lenicheck, who increased the pressure on Terrier keeper Bryan Murphy. But it was another freshman, unlikely hero Marko Soldo, who gave the Harvard a chance to tie in the 48th minute. Taking a Lenicheck through-ball, Soldo deked out a defender and lined up a shot on goal. The remaining B.U. defender, however, pulled him to the ground before he could pull the trigger, and the ball bounced harmlessly out of bounds. The official granted the Crimson a penalty kick and junior midfielder Armando Petrucelli nonchalantly hummed it past Murphy's outstretched hands to even the match at one.
To avoid letting down after the thrilling sequence, Harvard liberally utilized its bench, with freshman midfielders Brian Schmidt and Matt Peller getting substantial second-half minutes.
As both squads dug in for the duration, it seemed that fans would not see a live goal. Peller, however, gave them hope with two stunning runs through the B.U. defense at the end of regulation. As time expired, Peller threaded a shot past two defenders, only to watch it trickle harmlessly left of the goalpost.
This final sequence would set the tone for the sudden death overtime period, which seemed like one prolonged gasp from fans.
A loss would have meant two extraperiod setbacks in a row for the Crimson, who dropped a 4-5 decision to Yale last Sunday.
"We knew we couldn't let up. We couldn't settle for a tie," defensive reserve Yoshio Kaneko said of the team atmosphere going into the sudden death period.
Ironically, the Crimson came out harder in yesterday's overtime than against a weaker opponent in the Yale game.
"I think we got a rush out of playing even with the No. 17 team in the country. We were more sure of ourselves," Kaneko said.
The Crimson continued to take the offensive in the extra period, ricocheting shots around the B.U. goal box. Then, in the 101st minute, Harvard caught the break it had been waiting for. A Terrier defender, trying to clear the ball from his box, deflected it off a teammate and into the air in front of Peller. The freshman controlled the ball on his chest and volleyed into the upper right corner of the B.U. goal to secure the upset.
Peller, hailing from the Northfield Mount Hermon Preparatory School, had his own supporters present and obliged them with a winning goal.
"I'm just glad I could play a part in turning this season around. We need to create some momentum with this victory," Peller said. Scoring B.U.--Dalen (PK), 21:43. Har--Petracelli (PK), 47:30. Har--Peller, 101:45 Saves: Har--Dupuis 3; B.U.--Murphy 2.
B.U.--Dalen (PK), 21:43.
Har--Petracelli (PK), 47:30.
Saves: Har--Dupuis 3; B.U.--Murphy 2.