A men’s soccer game featuring over 1,200 fans and eight yellow cards in the first week of the season can only mean one thing: a Harvard-Yale battle.

The Bulldogs (0-1, 0-1 Ivy) fell to the Cantabs (1-0, 1-0 ) 4-2 Saturday at the Soccer-Lacrosse Stadium. The loss was a frustrating setback for a team returning three first-team All-Ivy players.

After starting out the second half with several scoring chances off of strong play by Bennett Clark ’03 and Jon Skalecki ’05, Yale made two crucial mistakes that enabled Harvard to pull away.

The match turned for the Elis midway into the second half. Two mishandled balls at the 59th and 64th minute marks by goalkeeper Geoff Hollington ’04 resulted in scrambles in front of an open net, giving Harvard two easy goals and a 4-1 lead that it did not relinquish.

“At this level, key mistakes will cost you games. We weren’t outplayed, but it’s a credit to them that they finished the chances we gave them,” head coach Brian Tompkins said after the game. “We can’t afford to get caught napping.”

The match was characterized throughout by very aggressive play from both sides. Unlike typical season openers, the match saw frequent mid-air collisions with high emotions — eight yellow cards were handed out during the match.

“That’s pretty typical Yale-Harvard,” captain Brian Lavin ’02 said. “I think the refs could have thrown some people out or given some red cards, but overall they did a good job controlling the game.”

The game began with Yale attacking quickly, recording a shot on goal within the first minute. For the first 10 minutes, the speed of forward Justin Burton ’04 produced several scoring chances, but the Bulldogs were unable to hit the net — a problem that plagued them all evening.

Crimson midfielder Ladd Fritz intercepted a poor clearance and scored in the 15th minute to give Harvard the initial lead.

Yale tied the game in the 34th minute with a goal from Lindsey Williams ’05, who overpowered a Harvard defender and pushed the ball past Harvard goaltender Dan Mejias.

Harvard regained the lead in the 42nd minute with an extraordinary goal by Michael Cornish. The junior Crimson defender crossed the ball from the left flank, sending it straight into the top right corner for a 2-1 lead.

With the Elis trailing 4-1 and only three minutes left in the game, Williams scored his second goal. The Eli forward pounced on a loose ball in the penalty area and fired it into the back of the net.

“I had the biggest butterflies of my life before this game,” Williams said. “Coach [Tompkins] told me to lay low on the bench and provide a spark when I went in.”

The limited playing time of injured All-Ivy Stuart Yingst ’03 and absence of two-time All-Ivy forward Jay Alberts ’03 — sidelined with mononucleosis — was a blow to the Elis.

“Jay Alberts is one of the best players in the league, and it’s a loss, but we fielded a team that was good enough to win this game, and we were not outplayed tonight,” Tompkins said. “You can learn a lot by losing, and it’s not appropriate to feel sorry for ourselves or point fingers.”

While Williams certainly did provide a spark, it wasn’t enough to ignite the Bulldog offense, and the score remained 4-2 despite the fact that Yale outshot Harvard 19-8.

Harvard head coach John Kerr was proud of the way his players withstood Yale’s trapping play.

“I think they tried to hang back and suck us into making a bad pass or messing up, but luckily we worked all preseason building up our back and so we did a good job of holding up,” Kerr said.

The Bulldogs will have to bounce back quickly from this loss as they continue their season next weekend at the Brown Classic where they will face off against Coastal Carolina and Loyola (Md.).

“Road trips can be good because there are no distractions and you can just focus on the game ahead,” Lavin said.

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