This time last year, Dartmouth men's soccer was riding high. With victories against Princeton, Penn, Maine, and 19th-ranked Stanford, the Big Green had established themselves as a contender early on in the season. After four games, Dartmouth had already scored 10 times, while allowing only a single goal.
This year, however, is a slightly different story. The Big Green are 0-1-1, 0-0-1 against Ivy League teams, and heading into this weekend have yet to score. The Green's opponents, the Princeton Tigers, are 1-1-0 with their only loss being a one-goal defeat against non-conference Lehigh.
To make matters worse, Princeton easily knocked off their only Ivy opponent so far; beating Cornell 3-1 last week.
Then again, let's put things into perspective.
Cornell is the current Ivy League cellar-dwellers and Dartmouth easily won last year's contest against the Tigers, 4-0.
That, coupled with the excitement of their first home game of the year against an Ivy League team, should give the morale boost needed to put one in the win column on Sunday.
By the numbers, Dartmouth has been solid, but not spectacular. The two goals against the Big Green this year have each come in different halves, and the Green successfully battled the Penn Quakers to a tie.
Dartmouth head coach Fran O'Leary was pleased with his team's performance in Philadelphia.
"We got a good tie against Penn," he said. "And I think if we continue to play the way we have, with a little luck around the net, we should get some goals."
What their record does not show is that Dartmouth has outshot opposing teams 22 to 16.
Goalkeeper Ben Gebre-Medhin '02 has been a virtual wall up to this point in the season but, without any offensive support, it's all for naught.
Nonetheless, O'Leary is proud of his team's defensive prowess thus far.
"I think that we are a tight, defensive team," he said. "Everyone on the field works hard. Our forwards and midfielders have gelled into a tight, defensive unit and Ben (Gebre-Medhin) is there as our last line of defense.
Of their 10 regular starters, including two freshmen, they have just 18 career goals between them. O'Leary knows that experience makes the Tigers this weekend's favorites.
"Most of our guys from last year graduated so we have a whole new side this year," he said. "Princeton has about nine or 10 starters returning so they are probably the favorites."
Senior forward Michael Lewis leads the team with seven career goals. If the Big Green get him the ball, he is a good bet to find the net.
Senior midfielder Jamie Hozack is a good probable setup man for Lewis.
Coming into this weekend, Hozack has four goals and seven assists in his career. Add that to the fact that he has played with Lewis in more games than any other team tandem that needs to step up for the Big Green.
Also, look for Nick Magnuson '01 to be a factor in creating scoring chances. The junior midfielder leads the team in career assists with nine.
Although, there are 13 games left to play in the season, Sunday's 2:30 showdown with Princeton will mean a lot to Dartmouth as a team. Since Princeton is currently tied for the top spot in the Ivy League with Harvard, it will be a chance for the Big Green to show that they can play with other Ivy League teams.
If they don't win on Sunday, they will fall to 0-1-1 in Ivy League play and be without another conference match until October 9th at Yale.