The Crimson men are riding high on a two-game winning streak, defeating each of their opponents by at least a two-goal margin. Add to this a new class of rookie standouts, a record-setting point performance by co-captain Andre Akpan, and an impressive .207 successful shot percentage relative to its opponents’ .032 mark, and Harvard (2-0-0) seems to have found the recipe to success.
However, as biting autumn winds drift through the leaves of Harvard Yard, the Crimson’s stay in the sun is about to be challenged. This coming weekend, both No. 14 Boston University and Army will step onto Ohiri Field in an attempt to stifle Harvard’s burgeoning momentum.
The Crimson’s first game of the weekend will undoubtedly be its most important of the non-conference season.
The cross-city rival Terriers (2-0-1) are not only ranked among the best teams in the nation but are also hoping to prolong their own two-game winning streak.
“It’s one of those games that’s really going to determine our season,” Akpan said. “A win over [BU] will put us in the national spotlight and it’ll really get our season going.”
The threat is clear. The Terriers recently delivered a 3-0 upset to No. 12 Connecticut last Saturday. And, like Harvard, BU has posted a shooting percentage more than six times better than its opponents.
Of particular threat is junior Aaron O’Neal, who has tallied a team-leading four of the Terriers’ seven goals.
Even more nerve-racking than BU’s recent accomplishments may be the complete destruction that ensued at the two teams’ last meeting. After less than five minutes of play, BU delivered its first blow to Harvard and went on to massacre the visiting Crimson, 5-1. Harvard’s lone goal resulted from the work of its current co-captains–Akpan headed in classmate Brian Grimm’s free kick early in the first period.
“[BU] beat us pretty badly last year, so they’ll be an element of trying to get a little bit of revenge,” Harvard Coach Jamie Clark said. “That will be the biggest game of our early part of the season—BU is the top team in the Northeast right now.”
However, the Crimson will have to do more this weekend than face a daunting top-15 foe.
On Sunday, the men will once again don their crimson and white to take on the Black Knights of Army.
The black and gold faithful present a far less intimidating set of statistics than this afternoon’s visitors. Army holds a 1-2 record for the season, falling 0-1 in both of its last two matchups against Manhattan and then Marist.
Also, the Black Knights have also only scored two goals thus far in the season.
“Army will be the business end of that weekend,” Clark said.
While still maturing, the Crimson has incorporated both underclassmen and upperclassmen in its game plan, but improvements must still be made.
“We just need to keep getting a little bit better across the board,” Clark said. “We do well, but at the same time we’re still giving up a few too many chances.”
Opponents have out-shot the Crimson 31-29, a risky statistic when considering the talents of BU and O’Neal. However, senior Desomond Mitchell, who holds one of Harvard six goals this season, is confident in his team’s ability to keep growing as they face increasingly heated contests.
“Our team’s getting better and better every game,” Mitchell said. “We’re hoping to keep developing.”
The Crimson will have the opportunity to develop as well as a chance at redemption against the Terriers at 4:00 this afternoon.
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