Harvard will be vying for its first Ivy title since 2009 (Gil Talbot).
Men's Soccer is ready. Are you?
It all comes down to this. The Harvard men's soccer team, ranked first in the Ivy League standings, will face off against the No. 2 Penn Quakers Saturday in the regular season finale. The winner of the game will be crowned the outright Ivy League champion, while a tie would give the outright title to the Crimson.
Salute To Seniors
Prior to the start of the game against Penn, Harvard will be paying tribute to its senior class. The six-member class of 2014 has accounted for nine goals, 21 assists and 39 total points over the last four years, and has helped Harvard to 17 wins in that span. The members of the class of 2014 are: A.J. Agha, Brett Conrad, Ross Friedman, William Giahos, Kevin Harrington and Pascal Mensah.
How Harvard Got Here
After an inauspicious performance against its non-conference schedule, the Crimson has proven to be the most consistent squad in Ivy League play, posting a 5-1-0 record and leading the conference by a two-point margin. A late collapse at Yale saw a 2-1 decision go the Bulldogs' way, but it would be the last time Harvard would taste defeat in Ancient Eight action. A week later, Harvard picked up its first league win with a dramatic double-overtime victory at Cornell, and followed it with 2-1 triumphs over Brown, Princeton and Dartmouth.
In its last match, Harvard continued its streak of scoring two goals in conference wins, blanking Columbia, 2-0, to wrap up its road schedule. With the game tied 0-0 at the half, the Crimson came out firing in the second half and grabbed a 2-0 lead within seven minutes of the second kickoff. Kevin Harrington put home a rebound of a Mark Ashby shot at 49:49 and Matt Sheeleigh provided the insurance, knocking in a corner kick from Ross Friedman two minutes later. Sophomore Evan Mendez stopped five shots in the game for the clean sheet and his sixth victory of the season.
About The Crimson
Perhaps the best trait of the 2013 Crimson squad is balance. Harvard has just four players with multiple goals on the season, but 14 players on the Crimson roster have collected goals this season and 19 have notched at least one point. Senior Kevin Harrington and freshmanAshi Geberkidane enter the final match tied for the team lead in goals with three apiece, while Andrew Chang and Philip Fleischman each have two. Senior Ross Friedman leads the team, the conference, and ranks fifth in the nation with 10 assists on the year, and his 0.63 assists-per-game average also ranks fifth in the country. He remains the team points leader with 12 on the year.
Evan Mendez has proven to have the hot hand in goal through the conference schedule, posting an unblemished 5-0-0 record in Ivy play and a 6-0-1 mark overall. He holds an impressive 0.69 goals-against average, which stands second in the conference, and has allowed an Ivy League best five goals on the year.
The Quakers have been a force in the conference from the start, as they bring a 4-1-1 record into Saturday's showdown. Penn grabbed the top spot in the league race early, thanks to wins over Cornell, Dartmouth and Yale, and managed a point on the road against Columbia in a 0-0 tie. The one slip up came at Brown Nov. 2, when the Bears struck in double overtime to secure a 2-1 win. Penn bounced back last weekend in a 2-1 victory over Princeton in Philadelphia.
Duke Lacroix represents the point of attack for the Quakers as he holds the team lead in goals (seven) and points (17). Alec Neumann is next on the list with 12 points, and shares the team assists lead with Alex Reddy at four. Sam Hayward has also put in his share of goals with five tallies on the season. Tyler Kinn is Penn's go-to keeper with starts in 14 of 16 games. He holds a 1.54 goals-against average, a .753 save percentage, and has totaled 67 saves on the year.
Harvard has yielded an Ivy League weekly award winner four times this season, with the most recent being Evan Mendez as Player of the Week. The sophomore earned the honor thanks to a shutout performance at Columbia last Saturday in which he stopped five shots and kept the Crimson atop the Ivy standings. He joins Ross Friedman (Player of the Week, Oct. 14), Ashi Geberkidane (Rookie of the Week, Oct. 21) and Daniel Smith (Rookie of the Week, Oct. 28) as Harvard honorees this season.
Harvard will be vying for its first Ivy League title since 2009, when it put together a 5-1-1 conference record and defeated Penn, 1-0, in the season finale to clinch the title. The Crimson would go on to top Monmouth, 3-0, in the first round of the NCAA tournament before bowing out of the draw via a 2-0 loss to Maryland. The Crimson has 13 Ivy League titles in program history and has made 16 trips to the NCAA tournament, advancing to the semifinals on four separate occasions.