The men’s soccer team was searching for a win in order to remain undefeated in league play. But instead, defeat found them.
The Elis (4-5-1, 1-1 Ivy) took on the Cantabs (6-4, 1-1) in a rivalry game on Saturday, which concluded in a Harvard win, 3-2. The game featured one major swing in momentum and a change in play for the Bulldogs.
The first half of the game was mainly offensive. In the opening 20 minutes, the Yale attack pressured Harvard’s defense, which resulted in a goal scored by midfielder Alex Guzinski ’09 in the 24th minute. Four minutes later, Cantab Andre Akpan hit a through pass that beat Yale keeper Erik Geiger ’08 to tie the score. Then forward Alex Munns ’07 bent a direct kick past the Cantabs’ goalie in the 30th minute.
“We dealt with the challenging atmosphere in Cambridge really well for the first 10 or 15 minutes, and then we scored a couple of goals,” Geiger said.
After the second Eli goal, the Crimson came back at the end of the period to even the score at two. There was a definite turning point in the game after Harvard’s second goal, Munns said.
“Without that goal we go into half-time up 2-1 and we can regroup,” he said. “Giving up that last goal really shifted objectives because it made it so we couldn’t play for the counter attack and play very tight. We had to loosen up.”
The second half was a different story for the Elis. After coming out strong in the beginning, the Bulldogs were beaten by Harvard’s renewed enthusiasm and the Elis’ own inability to use what they knew about the Crimson to their advantage.
“[The Cantabs] brought a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of hard work and hard-nosed effort,” Munns said. “They won the second half, and that’s what made the difference in the game.”
Before the game, the Elis had studied Harvard’s weaknesses, particularly ways to get past the Crimson defense and goalkeeper. In the defensive third, the Bulldogs talked about keeping the Cantabs offense from serving long balls through the defense. But the Elis were unable to follow through on their preparations.
“They did not surprise us by what their strengths were or who stepped up on their team,” Munns said. “They just outworked us.”
The Bulldogs did not test the Crimson defense enough and were not keeping their offense at bay, Geiger said.
Harvard scored its third and winning goal in the 54th minute on another long through pass. That goal showed that the Bulldogs did not maintain their pre-game strategy against Harvard.
“[Harvard] took advantage of us at times,” captain and midfielder Jordan Rieger ’07 said. “When we were out of position they found holes in our defense. The fact that those holes were there is something we have to work on.”
Head coach Brian Tompkins echoed Rieger’s sentiments with his opinion on what the Elis need to work on. He took notice that the Bulldogs held the lead for about half the game but could not pull out a win.
“We need to work on hanging on to a lead and not letting teams get back in the game,” Tompkins said.
The Bulldogs will try to regroup this week, looking ahead to matches against Fairfield on Wednesday and Dartmouth next Sunday. While many of the players are still optimistic about their chances in the Ivy League, they also recognize Dartmouth as a potent opponent.
“Dartmouth is always one of the best teams in the league,” Geiger said. “We’re not out of the championship race, but there’s no room for error anymore.”
Both Rieger and Munns said they remain upbeat about the season, noting that the Bulldogs started Ancient Eight play 1-1 last year as well and eventually won the League Championship.
“I’m still very excited about our team and the season,” Rieger said. “We’re going to come back in the next Ivy game and hopefully win another championship.”