In an intense game marked by high peaks and deep lows, both the Yale and Harvard men’s soccer teams walked off the field tied 3–3, as the Bulldogs failed to capture a contest they had begun with an early two-goal lead.
Although the Elis (1–3-–2, 0–0–1 Ivy) broke away with a two-goal advantage, the Crimson (4–3–2, 0–0–1) responded with three unanswered goals. Yale responded with a third tally of its own to send the game into overtime, where the intensity never dwindled: Both teams rattled off extra-time shots, but neither could silence its opponent before the buzzer. The Bulldogs have yet to break down the wall that has separated them from an Ivy League victory in the last two years, but Saturday’s game at least appears to be a crack in the mortar.
“I am very happy with the performance overall,” head coach Kylie Stannard said. “To go through the roller coaster we did emotionally in that game shows that we are still learning how to manage a game and our composure, when we are leading. However, it also shows the incredible fight and togetherness this team has. I thought we were the better team for 70-80 minutes of the game.”
Yale tallied the game’s first goal 15 minutes into the game when forward Kyle Kenagy ’19 soared over his defender to smash a header into the upper 90 off of a corner from midfielder Nicky Downs ’19. Despite five shots from Harvard, the first half ended with only Kenagy’s effort evident on the scoreboard.
Just over 10 minutes into the match’s second half, the Bulldogs doubled their lead. Under duress, Crimson goalie Kyle Parks chipped a pass to one of his defenders. The lofted pass held in the air far too long and allowed Eli midfielder Josh Totte ’18 to close on it. His pressure forced a bad touch from the defender, who whiffed on a clearance attempt. The shanked ball glided across the slicked grass toward winger John Leisman ’20, who saw that Parks was still out of position. Leisman took advantage of the misplaced goalie and sent a one-timer off the woodwork and into the twine.
“Scoring against Harvard was a fantastic moment,” Leisman said. “I knew the keeper was off his line so I wanted to try to sneak the ball inside the front post before he could get back. I had never played in a rivalry match of such magnitude before Saturday, so being able to celebrate that goal with the rest of the team was an unforgettable experience. Although the weather was not favorable for fans, the atmosphere on the pitch was electric.”
Up two and carrying all the momentum, the Bulldogs appeared to be in a prime position to coast to victory, but Harvard foiled their plans. In rapid succession, the Crimson climbed back to even, and then claimed its first lead. All three goals were assisted by junior midfielder Christian Sady, who sits third on the team with seven points.
With only 13 minutes left in regulation, the tide had completely shifted. Having fumbled away its two goal lead, Yale watched as the chances of victory seemed to slip way.
“I was pretty frustrated,” captain and defender Henry Flugstad-Clarke ’17. “We huddled up and decided that now we had to show what we were made of.”
Flugstad-Clarke missed all of last year with a torn ACL. His lost was felt, as the defense — which had been the team’s strength — struggled. This year, he has not only worked to shore up the defensive line, but has also been critical in attack. Down one with less than four minutes left in the game, Flugstad-Clarke came up big again.
“Having [Flugstad-Clarke] back in this team after being out last year is priceless,” Stannard said. “His confidence, competitiveness and presence [are] invaluable and gives everyone on this team more confidence. Every team has an ‘x factor’ and he is ours.”
Downs began the scoring effort for a second time, sending a long set piece straight into the box in the 86th minute. Kenagy, once again took flight, launching over everyone, to flick the ball on, and Flugstad-Clarke redirected the flick into the back of the net, to equalize the game at three-all.
The game’s intensity only increased from there, with both teams continuing to pour shots at their opposing goalies. In the last 10 minutes of the second overtime, Harvard took four corner kicks and two shots.
With less than two minutes to play, chaos ensued in Yale’s box. Out of the scrum, Harvard managed to ping a screaming volley at goalkeeper Kees Schipper ’19 who made a last ditch save in the final minute of play.
“I was just trying to stay composed in an extremely panicky moment,” Schipper said. “We were really scrambling to get the ball out of our half for the last minute and a half and, to be honest, we barely held on.”
Despite failing to hold on to the lead, the tie marked a successful road trip for a team that has struggled both in conference play and away from home. Saturday’s game also marked the first time the Elis have scored three goals since Sept. 19, 2015.