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Last year, Penn entered its regular-season finale against Harvard ranked No. 16 in the country, undefeated in the Ivy League and expecting to dominate. But the Crimson upset the Quakers 2-1, forcing them to share the Ivy League title with Dartmouth.
This year, 11 Crimson seniors—five of whom played in that game—saw their own hopes dashed by a less accomplished Quaker squad in a 2-1 loss.
The way Harvard (8-6-3, 2-4-1 Ivy) played against Penn (6-9-2, 2-5-0) on Saturday mirrored its entire season. All fall long, the Crimson has failed to convert numerous scoring opportunities while a few of its opponents’ softer shots have found their way into the net.
Saturday was no exception.
“It was the epitome of our season,” Harvard coach John Kerr said. “We showed so much, but at the same time, it takes one mistake and we’re back at square one.”
Saturday, it was actually two late mistakes that hurt Harvard.
With just over twelve minutes remaining, Quaker midfielder John Rhodes crossed the ball wide to the right side of the goal to Stephen Kroculick, who knocked it in for the game-winning tally.
Only five minutes earlier, a similar play led to Penn’s first goal as Richard Brushett crossed the ball to a sliding Joshua Duyan, who capitalized with the tying goal.
Harvard’s lone score came late in the first half. Freshman forward Matt Hoff continued his offensive production by taking a cross from senior Grayson Sugarman and calmly putting the ball past the goalie into the right side of the net.
Trailing 1-0 at the half, Penn seemed to come out with more energy than the Crimson in the second frame, leading to its two goals.
“It was a weird feeling today,” Kerr said. “We didn’t have as much energy as I would hope. They were getting to the ball a little quicker than we were. And there was no pressure on them, because they know that they’re not going to the postseason. We felt a little bit of the pressure, because we knew we had to win.”
Although last week’s loss at Columbia drastically reduced Harvard’s chances of earning a berth in the NCAA Tournament, the team still hoped that a win Saturday would give it an outside shot at an at-large bid.
Instead, the loss effectively ended the season.
“It’s the story of our season. We haven’t converted chances when we had them and then it has come back to bite us at the end,” captain and center back Andrew Old said. “We’ve got to do our job at the back as well and we didn’t do that today. But it’s a very disappointing way to finish.”
The loss of the 11 seniors will force the Crimson to readjust over the offseason.
Harvard’s seniors—from Old, who, when healthy, has been a force for the Crimson, to goalkeeper Russ Mosier, who rejoined the team in the middle of the season after a rash of injuries decimated Harvard’s goaltending corps—were honored before the game in a light-hearted ceremony.
After the game, the team already had to begin to think about life without them.
“I thanked the seniors for their four years of effort,” Kerr said. “I just said, ‘Hopefully we can move forward with the undergraduates that are coming back.’ And it’s very disappointing to think we didn’t come in and get it done.”
This year’s seniors were also Kerr’s first recruiting class, adding another emotional dimension to Saturday’s loss for the Crimson coach.
“It is a little disappointing to have so much talent on this team, but not be able to get it to the next level,” Kerr said.
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