The match of the year is finally around the corner, as Yale and its archrival Harvard will compete tomorrow in Boston to signal the kickoff of the Ivy League season.
“A win on the road against our biggest rival would be an amazing way to start our Ivy League season,” defender Nick Alers ’14 said.
After doubling up Marist but falling to No.2 soccer powerhouse UConn, the Bulldogs nevertheless have been showing some excellent form at both ends of the field against strong foes. Although the Elis (3-4-2) are halfway through the season, they have not met any of the Ivy League teams yet.
“After the loss to Connecticut, I think everyone on the team is very motivated to go into Cambridge and get a win,” Alers added.
Looking at last year’s Ivy season performances, the Elis took fifth place and the Crimson ended up at the bottom of the league.
Harvard (1-5-1) has been going through a rough season, with a total of five goals on 75 shots. In its games against California Poly and U.C. Santa Barbara, the Crimson suffered two consecutive losses, 2-1 and 1-0, respectively. Harvard was also humiliated in a 6-0 shutout against UConn, whereas Yale held off the regional powerhouse and lost by only a two-goal margin. In last year’s game, the Bulldogs defeated the Crimson 1-0, with last year’s captain Chris Dennen ’12 scoring the game sealer in the first half.
“Last year’s match was a lot of fun,” Alers said. He added it was a physical and competitive game.
Although Harvard overwhelmed Yale in terms of the shots alone (19-7), it failed to score goals. Captain and goalkeeper Bobby Thalman ’13 turned the Crimson’s eight goal-scoring chances into disappointments and played a crucial role in shutting out Harvard. Unfortunately for the Elis, Dennen, Charlie Paris ’12, Charlie Neil ’12 and Max Morice ’15, who were pivotal in the victory, will not be returning to help repeat the feat. But new players such as forward Mitch Wagner ’16, defender Pablo Espinola ’16 and forward Avery Schwartz ’16 have stepped up recently, taking up influential roles.
“The biggest difference between our team last year and our team this year is that I think we will try to possess the ball a little bit more this year than we did last year,” Alers said.
There are, however, some dangerous players that the Bulldogs have to watch out for within the Crimson’s lineup. Crimson forward Zack Wolfenzon scored a goal against California Poly and has recorded a total of 16 shots so far this season. Freshman Jake Freeman scored a goal against Michigan State and has 11 shots to his name this season. Harvard also has two freshman goalkeepers. Joe Festa has made 16 saves, while Evan Mendez has recorded 14 saves so far. On the other hand, Yale’s Thalman has started in all nine games this season, making 41 saves with a percentage of 0.837 and achieving four shutouts.
Yale has also recorded a total of five goals this season. Forward Scott Armbrust ’14, forward Jenner Fox ’14, forward Peter Jacobson ’14, midfielder Conner Lachenbruch ’15 and midfielder Kevin Michalak ’15 have contributed one apiece.
“Our goal this Saturday defensively is to stay disciplined, to provide strong cover for each other and to defend as a team,” Alers said. ”Offensively, we want to move the ball quickly and make incisive runs through their defense.” He added if such strategies work correctly, the team wll have a great chance to beat Harvard on the road.
Taking their first step to grab the Ancient Eight throne, the Elis will face Harvard at 7 p.m. on Saturday.