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With only seconds remaining in yesterday’s 3-0 victory over Maine, Ladd Fritz had reason to smile.
He was back.
Playing in his first game of the season after suffering a knee injury last spring, the senior midfielder received a pass down the left sideline and snuck a shot past the inside post. With just 14 seconds remaining, the ball found the back of the net, as the Crimson (2-1-2) put the final touches on a convincing victory over the Black Bears (3-4-1).
The goal may have come in “garbage” time—the Crimson was already up two when Fritz added his tally. But the signifigance of the score was far more valuable. It provided an exclamation point for the apparent reemergence of Harvard’s offense. The three goals were the most the Crimson has scored since last year’s game against Maine.
Fritz played only a few minutes at the end of both the first and second halves. Even in such a limited amount of playing time, and despite the fact that he is clearly not yet his old self, Fritz showed flashes of what made him the Crimson’s second-leading scorer last year.
“It felt really good to be back on the field, and to get some confidence back with a goal,” Fritz said.
“It was good for him to get a goal—and a yellow,” said freshman forward Matt Hoff, referring to the yellow card Fritz received for protesting a questionable offsides call. “I look forward to playing with him.”
The combo of Hoff and Fritz, along with sophomore forward Brian Charnock, promises to be explosive. Both Charnock and Hoff demonstrated the kind of scoring ability they can bring to Harvard by torching the Maine defense for a goal and an assist each.
“I thought Charnock and Hoff proved why they were in the starting line up,” said captain and defender Andrew Old. “They were dangerous up there.”
Hoff struck early in the first half, breaking a scoreless tie with a rocket into the lower left hand corner of the net.
“[Senior back John] Napper played a quick one over the top, I took a touch and slid it past the goalie,” Hoff said.
Charnock struck late in the second half, with the game still in doubt. He received the ball from Hoff with his back facing the goal, turned, and struck a low shot past the Maine keeper.
“We started clicking,” Hoff said. “Our movement off the ball and our work rate was outstanding.”
The Crimson defense, meanwhile, was solid all game. The Black Bears were rarely able to maintain possession in Harvard’s end of the field and only got off seven shots to the Crimson’s 14.
Old led the way on defense while playing with an intimidating gap in his front teeth—the result of a practice accident last spring. Sophomore goalie Ryan Johnson, who played the entire game in net, needed to make just three saves, though the first was a “highlight-reel” diving stop in the opening ten minutes.
This weekend, the Crimson travels south of the Mason Dixon line to face No. 8 North Carolina and Duke.
“Hopefully now we can get our offense to gel as we go into this weekend with two really big games,” Fritz said.
—Staff writer James Sigel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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