Ivy Road Finale Pits Men's Soccer Against Columbia Saturday

Ivy Road Finale Pits Men's Soccer Against Columbia Saturday

Ross Friedman entered the week ranked seventh in the nation at 0.57 assists per game (Gil Talbot).

Highlights: First Half Goals Lift Harvard Past Dartmouth, 2-1

The Storyline
In its final road game of the 2013 regular season, the Harvard men's soccer team looks to maintain its place atop the Ivy League standings with a Saturday showdown at Columbia. The Crimson enters the matchup against the Lions riding a three-game win streak and a four-game conference win streak.

Ivy League Standings
With 12 league points in five league games, the Crimson sits two points clear of second place Penn and Princeton with two games to go. A pair of victories in its next two games would lock up the Ivy League title for the Crimson, but there is also an opportunity for Harvard to clinch the league crown this weekend. Should Harvard defeat Columbia and Penn and Princeton, who play each other in a 4 p.m., game Saturday in Philadelphia, play to a tie, the Crimson would clinch the title with a game to go.

Harvard's last title came in 2009 when it posted a 5-1-1 league record and went onto capture an NCAA tournament game over Monmouth, 3-0.

Last Time Out
A first-half goal from forward Oliver White was all the scoring that was needed, as the Harvard men's soccer team took down Holy Cross, 1-0, Wednesday night at Smith Soccer Stadium. The match represented Harvard's final non-conference bout of the regular season, and third straight victory.

The breakthrough followed soon after Harvard's first shot, as Friedman gained his third corner kick of the half. The senior directed the ball in play, and after a touch from Matt Sheeleigh, the ball landed at the foot of striker Oliver White, who buried the ball from five yards out to give the guests a 1-0 advantage. 

The Holy Cross offense picked up a bit in the second half, but the Crimson defense stayed sound and goalie Brett Conrad made three key saves to preserve the 1-0 lead. The Crusaders had one final look on a corner kick in the final minute of play, but the ensuing shot was blocked by the Harvard defense, ending the game in a 1-0 final. 

About Harvard
Consistency has been the name of the game for the Crimson in Ancient Eight action, as all four victories have come by 2-1 scores. Harvard is the only Ivy team with four league wins to its credit, and one of just two squads that controls its own destiny.

With Oliver White's goal against Holy Cross Wednesday, the Crimson has seen its 18 goals scored by 13 different players this season. Rookie Ashi Geberkidane leads all players with three goals on the year, while Philip Fleischman, Andrew Chang and Kevin Harrington all have two apiece.

Senior Ross Friedman remains Harvard's scoring leader with 11 points on a goal and nine assists through 15 games played. He began the week ranked seventh in the nation in assists per game at 0.57, and was 12th in the nation in total assists. The Bexley, Ohio native ranked first in both categories among Ivy League players entering the week.

 Sophomore goalie Evan Mendez has maintained the winning touch for the Crimson this season, boating a perfect 5-0-1 record in seven starts, to go with a 0.80 goals-against average and .848 save percentage. Senior captain Brett Conrad picked up his first win of the season in the 1-0 victory over Holy Cross.

Scouting Columbia
While Columbia enters the match with a 1-1-3 conference record, it has had little trouble scoring goals, posting the most overall goals in the conference (25) and the greatest goal differential (+6). The Lions are unbeaten in their last four games, which included a 2-0 victory over Dartmouth and a 3-3 tie with Yale.

David Najem leads the way for the Columbia offense with 16 total points on five goals and six assists. Will Stamatis and Andrew Tinari also have five goals each on the season, while Antonio Matarazzo is close behind with four. Kyle Jackson has played all but 37 minutes in goal this year for Columbia, accounting for all eight of the Lions' wins and holding a 1.18 goals-against average and .743 save percentage.

Up Next
Harvard's final game of the regular season could very well be a match between the top two teams in the Ivy League. Saturday, Nov. 16, Penn comes to Cambridge for a 7 p.m. contest at Soldiers Field Soccer Stadium. Harvard will honor its senior class in a pregame ceremony.