On a cold and rainy night in Hanover, the Harvard team (9-4-2, 2-1-2, Ivy) battled Dartmouth (9-4-2, 3-1-1) to a 1-1 tie that left the Crimson alive in the Ivy League race, but no longer in control of its own destiny.
“[Dartmouth] is a very good team,” Harvard coach Pieter Lehrer said. “The guys really fought. It was wet and rainy and a bit of a scrappy game but they are a good team. It took everything we had to create our chances."
The Big Green struck first when Stefan Defregger sent in a laser from 25 yards out in the sixth minute that sailed past the fingertips of goalkeeper Evan Mendez, who gave up just four goals in the team’s first four Ivy League contests. For the second straight Ancient Eight contest, the visiting Crimson found itself in an early hole.
“Their first goal was very good,” Lehrer said. “There is not much we are able to do about that kind of goal.”
Unlike against Princeton, the Crimson defense then immediately locked down the Dartmouth attack. The team centered its defensive strategy on limiting the touches for star Big Green forward Alex Adelabu. One of seven seniors in Dartmouth’s starting lineup, Adelabu came into the game with 15 points in 15 games but registered only two off-target shots on the night.
“We really stopped him from having opportunities,” Lehrer said. “The other players are obviously getting shots, [but] it is a bit of design about who is shooting it. Anyone can finish on any given day, but we were trying to limit the best player from getting the touches and shots on goal.”
On the night, Harvard took advantage of its few opportunities. The team’s only shot of the evening came in the fourth minute, when freshman midfielder Sam Brown found co-captain Kyle Henderson right outside the box. Henderson snuck a ball by Dartmouth goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland for the equalizer, his fourth goal of the season.
“I think they did a good job of challenging for every ball and not giving us free plays,” Henderson said. “They played a very good game against us.”
Defense prevailed for the final 70 minutes of play. The last great chance for either team came with about 10 seconds to play, when Adelabu finally got sprung. Sprinting into the open field, Adelabu beat Mendez but had his shot blocked by sophomore forward Daniel Smith with six seconds to go. The follow up by Hugh Danilack his the crossbar, allowing the Crimson to clear and come away with the tie.
“It was very impressive what [the defense] did tonight,” Lehrer said. “We would transition from attack to defense at full spring and took away a lot of their opportunities. I think it was a really big step forward.”
Lehrer noted that the team did a good job on possession but struggled to convert those chances into points once again. In five Ivy League games, the Crimson has scored just six goals after notching three or more in each of five games in a late September stretch.
Henderson was quick to praise the efforts of the defense, which has kept the team in every game. Harvard has not lost a game by more than two goals all season, in large part due to a defense that pitched four shutouts in October and allowed just three goals all month. The Crimson has allowed its opponent to score three times just once all season.
“Our back line has done a great job across the board,” Henderson said. “They did a good job of containing their attacks … It was a good group effort from all of them.”
The tie leaves Harvard tied with Penn for third place in the Ivy League, two points behind co-leaders Princeton and Dartmouth. The Crimson will take on Columbia at home next weekend before taking on the Quakers in Philadelphia to end the season. Dartmouth, which owns the head-to-head victory over Princeton, controls its own destiny in league play with only Cornell and Brown—two of the league’s worst three teams—left on its schedule.
—Staff writer David Freed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @CrimsonDPFreed.
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