Men’s soccer battles Harvard to 1-1 draw

by Alexander Agadjanian | 11/2/14 3:40pm

The final scene at Burnham Field on Saturday night could not have been more telling. In the waning seconds of the overtime clash between the Ivy League’s top soccer teams, Dartmouth and Harvard University (9-4-2, 2-1-2 Ivy), the final whistle left Big Green players sprawled out on the pitch, completely spent after a grueling 1-1 (2OT) draw, and a particularly draining final sequence.

With rain steadily falling throughout the night and temperatures reaching the 30s, the Big Green (9-4-2, 3-1-1 Ivy) manufactured one last offensive burst in the final 15 seconds of double overtime. Gabe Stauber ’15 led the final charge at goal, pacing down the right side within the goalie box and skillfully shifting the ball inside on the ground toward the front of the goal. The midfielder found the Big Green’s most dynamic offensive threat, Alex Adelabu ’15, with a clear look at an open net and some room to maneuver.

However, with just six seconds on the clock, Adelabu could not capitalize on this opportunity. The striker failed to control the ball, stumbling over it for a second before attempting a shot that the Harvard defense deflected.

As the Big Green faithful screamed for a go-ahead goal, the ball found its way to the feet of Hugh Danilack ’15 with mere moments left. The senior quickly took a touch and powered a shot on frame that smacked off the crossbar and back into the field of play as the final horn blared.

“It was one of those things where there’s a magnetic force or what just kept the ball out,” head coach Chad Riley said. “Some guys are very disappointed, because even before that we could have won the game in 90, in the first overtime, the second overtime. In some ways, I was pleased to see guys tearing up because they put so much of their heart and soul into that game.”

Matt Danilack ’18, who played a vital role in controlling the midfield for the Big Green throughout the game, said the last-second sequence was just unlucky.

“Sometimes it’s just not going to go in for you, and it’s unfortunate that it happens in an Ivy game,” Stefan Defregger ’15 said. “But a tie is not the end of the world for us, we still have control of our own destiny to win the Ivy League.”

Dartmouth dominated its Ivy League rivals Saturday night, accumulating a striking 12-1 shot advantage over Harvard, as well as a 5-1 edge in shots on goal. The Crimson, though gradually improving over the course of the game, scored on the team’s only shot of the game.

The Big Green began with a burst of energy. Within the first minute, Dartmouth had already pressured Harvard’s right flank. Midfielder Robin Alnas ’15 launched a cross that passed in front of Harvard’s goal, but the Crimson defense cleared it away.

The strong start paved the way for a striking goal for the Big Green.

Defregger received the ball to the right of the goal outside the box and fired a shot at the goal. He sliced his shot into the top left corner of the goal.

“I got the ball, the defender backed off and I just saw the back post and thought to put it on net and put it in a pretty good spot,” Defregger said.

Throughout the rest of the opening half, Dartmouth kept up the pressure, with Defregger along with fellow seniors Adelabu, Danilack, and Alnas leading the charge.

As important as it was that his team controlled the game, Riley said, he felt Dartmouth could have taken advantage of more chances in the game’s early stages.

“To be honest, after 10 or 15 minutes, you felt you could have been up two or three,” Riley said.

Harvard sharpened its play as the game went on. While still prone to mistakes in its own defensive zone, the Crimson generated more and more offensive threats and produced dangerous chances near the Big Green goal.

Riley said Dartmouth let the Crimson back in the game when the Big Green stopped pressuring the midfield, forcing fewer Harvard turnovers and thus fewer opportunities for the Big Green to attack in transition.

The team had a good first 15 minutes and then “sort of panicked a little bit” after it scored, Defregger said.

Dartmouth’s defensive line began to appear much more suspect, allowing several Harvard offensive players to pierce through unchecked into the goalie box. Finally, in the 40th minute, the Crimson struck to level the score at one.

Harvard freshman Sam Brown found sophomore Kyle Henderson in the middle of the field. Henderson created enough space for himself to blast a shot that appeared to deflect off of a Dartmouth defender and into the net. The shot took a fortuitous bounce for the Crimson, leaving goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland ’16 unable to react.

To begin the second half of play, the Big Green came out of the gates with authority, generating a number of opportunities primarily in the form of crosses. This offensive dominance persisted throughout the half and then into the two overtime periods, forcing Harvard to assume a defensive mindset, but the Big Green could not notch a goal. The deadlock remained until the final whistle, in large part due to the performance of Crimson goalkeeper Evan Mendez, whose four saves proved crucial to his team leaving Hanover with a tie.

The match leaves Dartmouth tied for the top Ivy spot with Princeton University. Both teams have two games remaining, and Dartmouth has the tiebreaker over the Tigers (8-3-3, 3-1-1 Ivy) thanks to a 2-1 OT win over Princeton in October.

The Big Green next take the pitch at Cornell on Saturday.