With just two weeks left in its season, the Harvard men’s soccer team (5-7-2, 4-1-0 Ivy) will look to continue its recent strong play against the Holy Cross Crusaders (7-7-1, 5-3-0 Patriot) on Wednesday.
“They always give us a good battle,” co-captain Kevin Harrington said. “They’re a pretty good team, so it should be interesting.”
The Crimson has won four of its last five games, with its success largely due to increased offensive production and stellar defensive play.
In those last five games, the team has managed to score 10 goals in total, allowing more than one goal just once in that span. Comparatively, in its first five games of the season, Harvard only managed to score four goals in total en route to a 0-4-1 start.
Such strong recent play has put Harvard on top of the Ivy League, a stark contrast to its position at this time last year, when it eventually finished last in the Ancient Eight without a single league win.
This season, however, the tides have turned. Harvard’s final two league games will determine who earns the Ancient Eight crown. A non-league matchup with the Crusaders will serve as an excellent opportunity for the team to work out any lingering problems and concerns.
Even so, the coaches and players insist that they are not treating this game any differently than an Ivy League contest.
“We’re preparing just the same as we do for every other game,” head coach Pieter Lehrer said. “We’re watching them and making improvements. We’re watching film, talking to players and getting feedback. It’s the same preparation as we have for any game.”
Continuing its season-long focus on the process of becoming a winning team, there remain a couple of key aspects that the Crimson wishes to improve.
During its hot streak, Harvard has consistently produced one half of strong play to win the game.
“We want to play our best full 90 minutes,” Harrington said. “I think the first 45 minutes [of the Dartmouth game] were great… now, our focus… is to play that way for 90 minutes and really sustain our defensive pressure, which is really the core of everything we’ve done.”
“We want to continue to keep a good work rate,” Lehrer added. “In the first half we were very strong from the attacking side. I think we just have to carry that into the second half more consistently.”
Harvard’s opponent is in a somewhat similar situation. The Crusaders have already clinched a bid for the Patriot League postseason tournament for the first time since 2008.
Unlike the Ivy League, the Patriot League utilizes a playoff format that disregards the regular season record once the teams are given their playoff seeds. Thus, despite Holy Cross’s mediocre record relative to the rest of its league, building momentum is critical for it to make a strong run in the conference tournament.
The Crusaders are looking to return to midseason form—specifically, a stretch during which they were able to capture six of eight games and run off four wins in five conference games.
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