While the men’s soccer team only had to play against a strong headwind in the first half of Saturday’s game, their lack of forward momentum lasted throughout the contest.
Set back by several key injuries and an own-goal, the Elis (7-2-1, 1-1-1 Ivy) were shut out 2-0 by the Crimson (8-4-1, 2-0-1).
It was the third consecutive game in which Harvard was the beneficiary of an opponent’s own-goal.
“I don’t know, it was kind of weird to be out there,” forward Lindsey Williams ’05 said. “We were playing, and we just weren’t going anywhere the whole game.”
Ladd Fritz’s early goal just 5:19 into the game was all it took for Harvard to beat the scrambling Bulldogs.
“It wasn’t that Harvard played better soccer than us, it was just that they were more effective with their game plan,” forward Jay Alberts ’04 said. “They played us very physically, and it took us a while to get into the game.”
Fritz took a pass from Michael Cornish and evaded Yale goalie Geoff Hollington ’05 to give the Cantabs the quick lead against the Bulldogs, who had not yet settled down and found their game flow.
And they never would. Yale had only limited chances to score, none particularly dangerous, and Harvard’s aggressive play took Yale’s offense out of the game.
“They were extremely physical, especially against our attacking players, and so we couldn’t get going offensively,” forward Justin Burton ’04 said.
In the second half, the Yale offense seemed closer to tying the game.
“We did a lot better, and it looked like we were going to get a goal,” head coach Brian Tompkins said. “We certainly created enough pressure.”
But the odds were stacked against the Bulldogs. Several players were banged-up, and forward Andrew Dealy ’05 played through illness.
“[Dealy’s illness] didn’t really help, because obviously he’s a key part of our offense,” Tompkins said. “A couple other guys got some knocks, too.”
Williams and midfielder Ryan Raybould ’05, who takes the majority of Yale’s free kicks, both had to leave the game with injuries. For the Elis, already having problems getting the game going, the unstable lineup created even more problems.
But the last straw was a crushing own-goal by the Bulldogs that gave Harvard a 2-0 lead and further crippled Yale’s comeback bid.
“Their second goal, which was an own-goal, took the wind out of our sails and made it twice as difficult to win,” Tompkins said.
The play occurred when a Bulldog defender attempted, during a scramble, to head the ball over the goal for a Harvard corner kick. Instead, the play backfired and the header eluded Hollington.
“You’re gonna have games like that, but it’s too bad that it had to happen at Harvard,” Williams said. “We can learn a lot from the loss, though.”
Crimson goalie Jamie Roth made three saves in the first half and finished the game with seven, while Hollington had five saves on the day.
The defeat was a frustrating setback for Yale, who went into the game tied for second in the Ivy League with Harvard. With only one Ancient Eight victory, the league season has gone worse than expected for Yale, preseason favorites to contend for the title.
“We won’t lose sight of our goals just because of this setback,” Tompkins said. “It’s rare that any team wins Ivies without a loss somewhere along the line, so we’ll be ready to take on Penn this weekend.”