Amid Boston Overdose Crisis, a Pair of Harvard Students Are Bringing Narcan to the Red Line
At First Cambridge City Council Election Forum, Candidates Clash Over Building Emissions
Harvard’s Updated Sustainability Plan Garners Optimistic Responses from Student Climate Activists
‘Sunroof’ Singer Nicky Youre Lights Up Harvard Yard at Crimson Jam
‘The Architect of the Whole Plan’: Harvard Law Graduate Ken Chesebro’s Path to Jan. 6
As my co-writer and I walked down to the sideline of Jordan Field this past Halloween, I could not help but notice how eerily quiet the Harvard men’s soccer bench, one that had been yelling at both players and refs alike all night, had gotten.
In the background, I’m sure a victorious Dartmouth team was celebrating an overtime golden goal that effectively clinched its second consecutive conference title, but all I remember was the silence on the other end, as if the Big Green players were not even there.
It felt like a scene from a boxing movie where the protagonist gets knocked down, and despite there clearly being people making noise in the background, the movie goes mute and the world seems to stop as the main character attempts to get back up.
As we approached senior forward Jake Freeman, I felt horrible.
The last thing I wanted to do was make him relive this game, especially when there was no doubt in my mind he was trying to move past it ever since the ball whizzed into the back of the Crimson net.
I did not know what to expect as my co-writer started to ask him about the game.
“It hurts right now,” Freeman responded. “But we still have two games left, and anything can happen. You don’t know.”
A few minutes later as I walked back across the river, I could not stop thinking of that interview.
Right before that response, Freeman’s voice had been shaky, and it seemed at one point like he would be unable to continue.
Yet, in that moment, the senior collected himself and firmly asserted that there was still hope, defying the distraught vibe that had been there just a few seconds before.
Freeman could have broken down, he could have said he needed a few seconds to gather himself. But instead, he insisted there was still fight left in his team.
That moment, I realized later on, epitomized the Harvard men’s soccer team.
This was a team that entered the season on a wave of hype and high expectations after two consecutive top-three finishes in the Ancient Eight before suffering a devastating personnel blow upon losing the 2014 Ivy League Defender of the Year, co-captain Mark Ashby, to injury.
This was a team that picked up only one win in its first seven games of the year but surprised many by roaring back to life at the start of Ivy League play, rattling off five wins in a row—three of them in conference games, the first three-game winning streak to start conference play since 2007.
This was a team that went down 3-1 to Princeton at home but continued to press relentlessly in the second half, closing the gap to one with just a few minutes left before coming a few yards from evening the score, ultimately falling just short.
This was a team that after losing in heartbreaking fashion to Dartmouth—a game that could have gone the Crimson’s way had a takedown of Freeman in the box been deemed a penalty—bounced back to defeat Columbia, 2-0, on the road before returning to Cambridge to rout Penn, 6-0, on Senior Night.
This was a team that had its back against the wall on multiple occasions, a team that looked down for the count after a handful of games, but continued to get back up for the next fight, regardless of prior results or how beat up the team was.
This team was the protagonist that, after absorbing every single knockdown it suffered, got back up and delivered punch after punch until the very end.
Just a few days after delivering its final punch on Senior Night, Harvard found out that its last-minute frenzy that night had not been enough to warrant its inclusion in the NCAA tournament.
Just when it seemed the Crimson had found a way to claw back into contention, the team was knocked right back to the floor.
I wrote earlier this semester that this year would mark the best chance in a while for coach Pieter Lehrer and his squad to clinch an Ivy title and claim a spot in the NCAA tournament. But if there’s any team that can prove me wrong, it’s Lehrer’s.
Despite losing a core component of its squad to the graduation in 2016, Harvard will have plenty to rebuild with.
Ashby plans to return after taking a medical redshirt to preserve his eligibility, key juniors such as co-captain Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu and center back Alex Leondis will return for their final season, the underclassmen will have one more year of experience under their belts, and another quality recruiting class will arrive in Cambridge.
It is tough to say if this will be enough for the Crimson, but one thing is clear: while it may appear Harvard is down for the count, that is likely not the case.
Lehrer is going to will his team to absorb this latest punch like it has all the rest and come back for the next round, just like it has every season since he arrived in Cambridge three years ago.
Nine months remain before the start of round four, as the Crimson will continue the fight for both the Ancient Eight crown and an NCAA tournament bid under Lehrer.
A lot can happen in that time frame, but there is one thing you can bet on: come next fall, the Harvard men’s soccer team will be back up, ready to fight once again.
—Staff writer Julio Fierro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.