After a week that saw the men’s soccer team eke out a win over Ivy rival Princeton and suffer a lop-sided loss to UConn, the Bulldogs are eager to take on Harvard this Saturday in Cambridge, Mass., where they hope to secure another Ivy victory.
Harvard (5-4, 0-1 Ivy) will pose a definite challenge for the Elis (4-4-1, 1-0 Ivy). The Crimson proved that they can hold their own against high-ranking teams when they lost a nail-biting match, 2-1, to No. 14 Duke last week. And although many of Harvard’s high scorers graduated last year, leaving the squad with nine freshmen this year, they still boast the 2005 Ivy League player of the year, forward Charles Altchek, and their offense is still a force to be reckoned with.
“[Harvard] will have size, speed, and certainly a lot of versatility in their pack,” Yale head coach Brian Tomkins said. “We clearly need to do a good job of paying attention and limiting their chances.”
If the Elis hope to record a win over Harvard on Saturday, they will have to hold back the Cantabs’ aggressive offense, and with a defense has been shaky this week. Although the Elis managed to hold back the Tigers from a two-goal rally in the second half, emerging from half-time with a 2-0 lead, the team let down its defenses and allowed Princeton to tie. The Elis were saved in the 82nd minute with a momentous goal from midfielder Jordan Reybould ’10 and finished the game on top with a 3-2 victory.
Team members admitted to opening themselves to the Princeton offense and said they lost focus in the mere four minutes during which the Tigers scored their goals. But these four minutes of inattention left the Bulldogs biting their nails until the last minute of the game.
A similar lack of focus haunted the Elis in their match against UConn on Wednesday, culminating in a 4-1 loss to the Huskies. UConn managed to enter the goal box consistently and made key passes that allowed the team to outmaneuver Yale goalies Erik Geiger ’08 and Dwayne Whylly ’08. Luckily, forward Alex Munns ’07 was able to set up midfielder James Stewart ’07 for a goal that kept UConn from shutting the Elis out.
“[UConn] was most effective at taking advantage of our mistakes,” Tomkins said. “I felt we played them pretty even, but they were very opportunistic when they needed to be.”
The Bulldogs will face a similar challenge when they take on Harvard, Tomkins said.
“Harvard is similar to UConn inasmuch as they are a team with a very dynamic offense,” he said.
It is important that the Elis seize every opportunity left open by the Harvard defense if the team seeks to establish itself at the top of the Ivy ranks this year. The Crimson have allowed only 14 goals in their nine games, amounting to 1.5 goals per game. Given Harvard’s sound defensive statistics, the Bulldogs will have to stay alert and capitalize on even the smallest of the Crimson defense’s errors.
“All it takes in this league is one goal,” Munns said. “If we give up the first goal, then we have to climb back to get one as fast as we can. Otherwise it becomes a dog fight.”
For the most part, team members said they are ready to fix the minor problems. Many Elis said they will have no problem paying attention in such a high-stakes match against their archrival.
“It doesn’t take much to get psyched up for a game against Harvard,” Geiger said. “Everyone has their own time before the game to get psyched. It’s another team that we want to beat and that we have to beat to get the Ivy Championship.”