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Men's Soccer Heads to Pacific Northwest for Weekend Bouts

Getting Back on Track
Junior co-captain Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu will look to lead the team to victories in the Pacific Northwest this weekend.

After stumbling through the opening gate of the season, the Harvard men’s soccer team (1-2-1) was finally able to get a much needed win at Stony Brook on Sunday after grabbing the lead in the 82nd minute. The team looks to take the momentum from this win into the weekend to the Pacific Northwest where it will play against Seattle and No. 9 Washington.

Seattle (3-2-0) has not had as much trouble getting off to a good start as the Crimson has this year. The Redhawks came out of the gates hot in their first competitive match, beating UC Davis, 6-0. The team has averaged over three goals while failing to concede one in its three victories so far.

Washington (4-0-1) has fared similar in the early portion of its schedule. Through the team’s first five matches, the Huskies have scored six goals and have conceded none on their way to their place in the top 10 nationally.

However, whether it is Seattle, Washington or any other team, the Crimson will look to prepare the same way.

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“The team as a whole, when we play we fight really hard, we grind out games and we compete,” junior co-captain Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu said. “With the exception of the first game, I believe that we have competed, more so than the other team. That’s the baseline standard that we set: to compete. We have a very strong fighting spirit.”

That fighting spirit will be needed if the Crimson has to once again take the field without co-captain Mark Ashby. The starting centerback has been out for the last few games due to a quad injury and has been listed as day-to-day so far this season.

“It’s the question of the hour. I’m at about 90, 95 percent fit, close to 100, but it’s a matter of taking the risk to play or not.” Ashby said.

Without his leadership at the back, the remaining men in the backline have stepped up, particularly the centerback pairing of juniors Alex Leondis and Dan Smith.

While playing without the reigning Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year presents a formidable challenge to Harvard, Wheeler-Omiunu believes that the rest of the team is more than capable of filling in Ashby’s shoes.

“Ashby is irreplaceable to our team.” Wheeler-Omiunu said. “That being said, our team is a team of leaders. Guys have absolutely stepped up and not only in the leadership department but in playing as well.”

This weekend could kick-start the Crimson season into gear, but doing so will be no easy task. Seattle's offense has been potent this campaign, scoring 10 goals over its five games.

The Redhawks have been led by senior striker Hamza Haddadi, who has scored five goals so far and is one of the top 15 goal-scorers in the nation. The defense has also been strong for Seattle, conceding only two goals and achieving a top-20 rank in the nation in goals against average with .4 goals per game.

Following its match versus the Redhawks, the Crimson has a quick turnaround before facing the Huskies.

Washington comes in with the best defense in the nation, as senior keeper Ryan Herman has anchored the defense between the sticks. Herman has made nine saves for the Huskies, who have yet to concede a goal this season.

While this weekend will present a challenge for Harvard, there have been promising signs that indicate this weekend could be a breakthrough for the team.

Over the last few games, the team has improved, honing in on cleaning up the details that have allowed opponents to come away with results against the Crimson so far. Doing so will be key for Harvard to get the ball rolling before conference play.

“There were details that we were not executing perfectly, like working on set pieces, not giving the ball away in dangerous positions, but it’s progressively cleaned up. “ Ashby said. “We’ve started to find our rhythm a little bit.”

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