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Harvard players dropped like flies, heads buried in the grass and fists clenched in agony.
Cornell senior forward Adam Skumawitz ripped off his blood-red jersey and streaked across the well-worn pitch in glory, while Harvard goalkeeper Dan Mejias tore off his bright orange jersey in agony.
Such was the scene Saturday afternoon when Skumawitz converted a feed from freshman Colin Nevison to notch the golden goal with just under six minutes remaining in the second overtime as Cornell pulled out a 2-1 victory over Harvard.
In a game full of momentum shifts, hard tackles and narrowly missed opportunities by both sides, Skumawitz' opportunism ultimately sealed the Crimson's fate.
"This game could have gone either way," said Cornell head Coach Brian Scales. "Harvard deserved to win this one as much as we did, but we found a way to win."
In the early minutes of the game, it seemed that Cornell (5-4, 2-1 Ivy) would not have much difficulty solving the Harvard (4-3-1, 0-2) defense. Big Red seniors Adam Brown and Jay Rosen exhibited a one-touch passing clinic in the ninth minute, providing a minor threat that subsided only when Brown's cross went wide left.
Six minutes later, however, Cornell was able to reap the benefits of its deft passing. A streaking Richard Stimpson received a through ball from freshman Ian Pilarski, and knocked the ball over diving Crimson goalkeeper Dan Mejias to put the Big Red ahead in the 13th minute.
Cornell continued to dominate play throughout the first half, but Mejias' save on a Nevison breakaway in the 26th minute helped preserve the 1-0 deficit.
As Harvard's defense and midfield struggled to contain the rugged Skumawitz and undersized yet crafty Stimpson, its offense was unable to build any momentum of its own.
Failing to string passes together in the midfield and build adequate scoring opportunities, the Crimson frequently by-passed the midfield and resorted to sending lofted balls from the backfield into the Cornell box.
Although Cornell came out strong in the second half, Harvard brought a new level of intensity to its own game, as evidenced by sophomore sweeper Mike Lobach's bone-crunching, game-saving tackle of Stimpson.
Although Lobach received a yellow card for his actions, he made it clear that Harvard would not fold. In addition to setting the tone for the second half, the tackle quieted the pesky Stimpson for much of the rest of the game.
As Harvard began to apply more pressure to the Cornell backfield, momentum clearly shifted in favor of the Crimson.
In the 59th minute, the increased pressure paid its dividends when freshman Grayson Sugarman gained possession of a failed Big Red clearance on the right wing. After carrying the ball into the box, where defenders and strikers chaotically fought for positioning, Sugarman was stripped by a Cornell defender. The clearance failed again, however, and Ladd Fritz punished Big Red goalkeeper Andrew Gordon by hitting a laser into the lower left corner of the net.
The score remained tied at 1-1for the remainder of the second half, first 15-minute overtime period and the beginning of the second overtime. Although Harvard continued to control the game's pace, an experienced and determined Big Red squad would not cave.
"This was definitely the most intense game of our season," said Cornell's Pilarski. "Its great having so many older guys out there to help us out."
Although in the end it would be the young guys who set the stage for their upperclassmen.
In the 114th minute, it was the freshman Nevison who drew several defenders to the bottom of the box before dishing it to Skumawitz up top. It was this unlikely contribution that ultimately enabled Skumawitz to gain possession of the pass, hold off two Crimson defenders and hit the game winning shot.
And it was ultimately this one play that decided the outcome of Saturday's match, allowing Skumawitz to rip off his jersey in glory and causing Mejias to rip off his jersey in agony.
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