UPDATED: October 28, 2015, at 5:41 a.m.
In a physical game at Jordan Field, a pair of seniors lifted the Harvard men’s soccer team (7-5-2, 3-1-0 Ivy) over crosstown rivals Boston College (8-6-1, 3-4-0 ACC) by a score of 2-1.
Classmates Michael Innocenzi and Oliver White came in from the sidelines and notched a goal each against the Eagles, ranked 14th in the RPI rankings. The match was the Crimson’s final nonconference contest as the team heads into the final stretch of the Ivy League season.
Half an hour into a cagey first period that saw the majority of play relegated to the middle third, the Harvard offense finally found its spark.
Some quick buildup play from senior forwards Jake Freeman and Tim Schmoll caught the Eagles off guard and led to a through ball that found its way through the BC back line. The ball ended up at the feet of Innocenzi, who poked a shot into the back of the net for his second goal of the season.
After a defensive struggle in the first stanza, the second half began with both teams displaying a much more attack-oriented mindset. With the searching long balls of the first period replaced by incisive short passes and aggressive physical play, momentum shifted back and forth.
It seemed as though neither team could find its footing for long enough to score, but White proved to be the Crimson’s sparkplug when he re-entered the game halfway through the second period. Just seconds after coming onto the field, the senior pounced on the ball after a scrum in the BC box to hammer it into the far side of the net.
“I was just on my toes, trying to drift towards the ball,” White said. “I knew I’d only have time for two touches; just take one to settle and another one to shoot.”
Harvard continued to press forward after going ahead but struggled to get off clean efforts on goal. Although the Crimson outshot the Eagles 11 to seven on the night, just four of the efforts were on frame.
“We’re going to work on our shots on goal,” Harvard coach Pieter Lehrer said. “When we shoot on goal, we produce goals. The guys have worked on that and will continue to work on that and I think that’ll produce big dividends down the line.”
BC threw everything forward in the last 10 minutes of the match and was rewarded with a consolation goal as freshman Simon Enstrom nodded in a glancing header off of a hopeful cross from junior Zeiko Lewis with just over a minute left to play.
The lone score was not reflective of what was otherwise a strong performance by the Crimson back line. The Harvard defense limited a BC front line that has averaged 10.6 shots per game to just seven efforts on the night.
The defensive effort was led by co-captain netminder Evan Mendez, who totalled five saves on the night. As BC threw men forward after the Crimson’s second goal, the senior keeper was called upon to preserve his team’s lead.
Midway through the second period, the Eagles earned a throw deep in Harvard territory, and the ball found its way into the Crimson area from a long toss.
After a series of headers, and with Mendez out of position, a BC forward lobbed a shot at the unprotected Harvard frame. The Crimson keeper dove acrobatically to tip the ball just wide of the post.
“[Mendez] has been great, he’s been fantastic,” Lehrer said. “He’s been a great captain and a great leader, and he settles the back line, which is huge.”
Although the victory did not count for Ivy League standings, Harvard will appreciate the momentum going into the next game against Ancient Eight leader Dartmouth this Saturday.
“[The victory is] huge,” White said. “But at the same time, we look at every game the same. We want to win it, and that’s all that matters, playing our best.”
This story has been revised to reflect the following correction:
CORRECTION: October 28, 2015
A previous headline of this story incorrectly stated that Harvard won the game on the road. The game was held at Jordan Field, the Crimson's home field.
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