Crimson crushes soccer title hopes
A goal by Harvard forward Charles Altcheck seven minutes into the second half gave the Crimson a lead that it would not relinquish in a game that was an all-or-nothing encounter for the Big Green (6-7-3, 3-2-1 Ivy).
"Once we were a goal behind, I knew it would be hard to come back against such a good team," head coach Jeff Cook said after the game. "The team has been battling all year, trying to stay alive in the Ivy League, but today it just didn't work out."
Having started the season in a disappointing manner, the Dartmouth players knew that their only chance of playing in the NCAA tournament was to win the Ivy League. It was a goal that required two Big Green wins in the last two games of the season.
To add to the pressure, it was the last home game of the seniors' careers. Before the game, the Class of 2007, one of the strongest in the team's recent history, was honored at a ceremony. Team captain Lucas Richardson '07, tenacious striker Mark Limpert '07, rock-solid goalkeeper Rowan Anders '07, defender Jacob Aguiar '07 and fifth-year seniors Pete Savidis '06 and Paul DuPuy '07 were all honored before the game. It was to be the last and biggest test of the collegiate careers of the six players, who have played a combined total of 281 games for the team.
Despite the terrible weather conditions on Sunday, the quality of play in the first minutes of the game was very high, with both teams struggling with the strong winds and the wet pitch. However, Dartmouth had the first opportunity to open the scoring as early as the third minute of play.
Michael Ordonez '08 made a good run on the left side and cut inside the penalty area. The junior dribbled past a defender and got to the end line, before passing the ball back towards Daniel Keat '10 around the penalty spot. However, the ball took a weird bounce just before the freshman could get to it, sending his shot way over the bar.
Harvard, which boasts the most potent attacking line in the Ivy League, was also active on the other side of the field. However, the biggest threat for Anders in the first half came as a result of a mistake in Dartmouth's back line, rather than a creative effort from the Crimson forwards.
With 22 minutes gone in the game, Pumi Maqubela '10 slipped on the wet field, leaving Aguiar and Anders to cope with two Harvard strikers. However, Altcheck, a standout forward for the Crimson, took one touch too many and Anders was quick to pounce on the ball and deny him.
Until the end of the half, both teams were struggling to get organized, with Harvard having a couple of chances through Altchek and Andre Akpan.
Starting the second half with the wind blowing in their favor, the Big Green players were hoping to make an impact early on. However, it was Harvard that managed to score the game's first goal through Altchek seven minutes into the period. The powerful forward headed in a cross from the left from close range for his 10th goal of the season.
"I thought we did well in the first half, but was surprised at the way we started the second half," Cook said.
Dartmouth answered almost immediately with some dangerous runs on the wings. In one of the attacks, Nick Christman '08 surged down the left flank and crossed into the area towards Ordonez. The junior, who was left completely unmarked, shot at goal immediately, only to see his effort denied by Harvard goalkeeper Adam Hahn.
In the last 30 minutes of the game, Big Green head coach Jeff Cook switched from a 4-4-2 to a 3-4-3 formation, looking for the all-important win. However, Limpert, Savidis and Christman couldn't finish off the chances they were given, with all their shots going wide of the mark.
Focused on the attack, the Dartmouth players looked rather shaky at the back and were lucky not to concede goals on a couple of occasions, when the goalkeeping ability of Rowan Anders and the inability of Harvard forwards to finish their chances proved crucial.
However, Harvard managed to score a second goal and effectively kill the intrigue in the game with 12 minutes remaining, when John Stamatis finished off a nice attack by the Crimson. Only four minutes later, Big Green men were already 3-0 down, as freshman star Andre Akpan scored his 10th goal of the season.
After creating numerous chances, Dartmouth was finally able to score a consolation goal a minute from time. Limpert picked up the ball in front of the penalty area and found the back of the net with a perfectly placed shot in the lower left corner of Hahn's goal, for his first goal of the season, and the 14th in his Dartmouth career.
The Big Green will play its last game of the season on Saturday, Nov. 4, against Cornell.