Men’s soccer in sole possession of second place after beating Harvard
After fighting to a scoreless tie with Columbia at home last week, the Big Green defeated Harvard on the road on Saturday.
The men’s soccer team traveled to Cambridge last weekend to for an in-conference match-up with Harvard University. The contest ended 3-1 in the Big Green’s favor, awarding the team another three points in the Ivy League standings.
After its home game against Columbia the week before ended in a stalemate, the team knew it needed a win at Harvard, as the Big Green tries to chase down Yale University in the hunt for an Ivy League championship. Going into Saturday’s game, Dartmouth was in a three-way tie for second place with Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania. With this win, the Big Green separates from the pack, as Princeton and Penn both left their weekend contests with only one point.
As for Harvard, they’re currently last in the league, with no conference wins so far this season. In fact, the Crimson was shutout in its last six games. This record put Dartmouth at risk of underestimating their opponents, especially considering a goal-hungry Harvard wouldn’t go down without a fight.
“I think it can be easy to overlook a team like that, or not really come into the game with the same intensity,” said captain Braden Salvati ’20. “I thought we did a good job putting the record behind us and not including that in our mentality.”
The Big Green certainly started with intensity, scoring in the game’s third minute. In the sixth game of his Dartmouth career, Patrick Murphy ’21 received a midfield pass from Ohad Yahalom ’22, found a hole in Harvard’s defense and rushed the net for his first career goal, uncontested.
A little over five minutes later, Dartmouth fouled Harvard near its net, resulting in a Crimson penalty kick. Willem Ebbinge made the goal, snapping Harvard’s nearly month-long goalless streak. This would also make Saturday the first time since 2014 that a Dartmouth-Harvard contest hasn’t given either team a shutout.
After the Crimson goal, Dartmouth struggled to maintain the dominance it had seen in the first minutes of the game. Harvard, bolstered by the long-awaited goal, fought back hard.
But with 30 seconds left in the first half, the Big Green regained the lead. David Alino ’23 sent a cross to Zach Kalk ’20, whose one-timer found the back of the net. This gave Kalk his second goal of the season, and his second game-winner.
Dartmouth took the field in the second half with new energy. Five minutes in, Yahalom received assists from Salvati and Mothibi Penn-Kekana ’22 and found the back of the net for his career first. Yet despite the padding, Harvard refused to let the Big Green relax for the remaining 40 minutes.
Crimson challenged Dartmouth’s offensive output, overtaking them in shots to end the game 12-11, with eight shots on goal to Dartmouth’s five. Nonetheless, Dartmouth stayed patient, avoided fouls, and fended Harvard off for the 3-1 win after 90 minutes of play.
“To Harvard’s credit, they didn’t stop fighting,” said head coach Bo Oshoniyi. “They had a belief about them, and they were grinding … and put us to the test there in the second half.”
Harvard’s fight gave goalkeeper Alex Budnik ’22 another chance to shine this season, as he matched his career high, reproduced from the contest against Columbia the weekend before, ending the game with seven saves.
After this win, not only has the Big Green emerged uncontested in second place in the conference, but it maintained its two-point gap with first-place Yale. There are two conference games left in the season for Dartmouth to try and close that gap.
“We gotta hope they lose,” Oshoniyi said frankly. “That’s kind of out of our control. Our thing is just to keep it tight and keep pressure on them. They have some tough games coming up, and so do we.”
Next weekend, Dartmouth will return home to face Cornell University, which currently sit in fifth place with a conference record of 1-2-2. The weekend after that, the team will conclude conference play in Providence against Brown University, following the fourth-place Bears’ contest against Yale. Yale will face Princeton for its final game, and the Tigers are currently tied for third with a record of 2-1-2.
In the week leading up to next Saturday’s matchup, according to Oshoniyi, the team is looking to work hard in the hopes of improving the consistency of its play in order to maintain dominance for the full 90 minutes. Salvati said the team will also expand on the solid performance of its defense in order to lock down its net and really limit scoring opportunities from the opposing offense,
“Honestly, at this point in the season, all we’re really concentrated on is ourselves,” Oshoniyi said. “That’s all we can control is how we play against Cornell, and how we match up and play against Brown.”