Champions Win in Ivy Opener

Raquel Rodriguez

Junior John Stamatis, shown here in earlier action, attacked the Cornell net on Saturday, notching a goal and an assist in the 4-1 win.

It took over an hour for the rain to pass and the lighting to stop before the Harvard men’s soccer team could kick off its Ivy League opener against Cornell on Saturday.

In contrast, it took less than eight minutes for the No. 8 Crimson (8-1-1, 1-0-0 Ivy) to score three second-half goals en route to a convincing 4-1 victory over the Big Red (5-4, 0-1-0 Ivy) in Ithaca, N.Y.

“[The Ivy games are] what we live and die for,” senior co-captain Matt Hoff said.

The scoring frenzy began just over 10 minutes after the break with Harvard sitting on a modest 1-0 lead. Hoff got things going by sending a cross from the right side that sliding freshman Alex Chi was able to poke in for the score. The goal was Chi’s second in as many games and his third of the year.

Finding itself in a 2-0 hole, Cornell initiated a comeback, scoring a goal five minutes later. But any hopes of drawing even died when, two minutes later, Crimson junior John Stamatis took a pass from junior Mike Fucito and fired a 25-yard blast into the corner of the net. The insurance goal was Stamatis’s first tally of the year.

A mere 20 seconds after the ensuing kickoff, Fucito slipped through the Cornell defense and caught up with a pass from sophomore Andre’ Akpan. One-on-one with the keeper, Fucito slid a shot into the right side netting for Harvard’s fourth and final goal of the day.

“That just took the wind out of their sails,” Hoff said. “They pretty much crumbled after that.”

It is becoming a bit of a habit for the Crimson to do its scoring in the second half. Of the 24 goals it has amassed in the first 10 games of the season, 18 have come after intermission. And in its last two games, the divide has been even more lopsided, with seven of nine goals recorded in the later frame.

“No one is going to keep us scoreless,” Hoff said.

Akpan got Harvard on the board in the 23rd minute when he took a pass from Stamatis and placed it inside the near post. The goal was Akpan’s team-leading eighth of the season and marks the seventh consecutive game that he has scored in. He is also the team leader in assists with six. Close behind Akpan in both categories is Fucito, who has put away seven goals and contributed four assists.

“They complement each other very well,” Hoff said. “Those two together really pull apart the defense.”

Senior goalie Adam Hahn and the rest of the Crimson defense turned in another impressive outing. Although the Big Red put up 15 shots (to Harvard’s 11), only three were on target, a testament to the Crimson’s tight defense.

Harvard, which has won its last two games by a combined score of 9-1, will face its more important challenge of the season when No. 15 Brown comes to Ohiri Field this coming Saturday. The Bears, who beat Princeton, 2-1, in overtime to start their Ancient Eight campaign on Saturday, are the only other Ivy League school in the national rankings.

—Staff writer Julia R. Senior can be reached at