PHILADELPHIA – It all comes down to this.
One year removed from a seventh-place finish in the Ivy League and a 3-13 overall record, Penn (7-8-1, 4-1-1 Ivy) heads to Harvard (7-7-2, 5-1-0 Ivy) with an Ivy League championship and automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on the line. Kickoff at Soldiers Field Soccer Stadium in Cambridge is set for 7 p.m.
The Quakers have not claimed an Ivy League championship since 2008, and know exactly what it will take to sit alone atop the Ancient Eight – a win. A victory over the Crimson is the only way the Red and Blue can overtake Harvard to claim Penn’s first outright Ivy League championship since 1972. Overall, the Quakers have won seven Ivy League championships (1955, 1962, 1971, 1972, 1980, 2002, 2008) and claimed a pair of outright Ivy crowns (1971, 1972) in program history.
The last time Penn won an Ivy League championship came in somewhat similar circumstances. The Quakers and Crimson met in 2008 at Rhodes Field, each with a shot at claiming an Ivy title. With both sides needing a win to claim the crown, the Quakers scored in overtime on a Loukas Tasigianis goal in the 95’ to stun the Crimson and earn a piece of the Ivy title with Dartmouth, relegating Harvard to third. The Crimson would rally in 2009 to claim its 13th Ivy League title.
Gameplans are sure to be different for each side on Saturday. The Quakers need the win to get what they want. For Harvard, a win or a tie are enough to secure the championship and move on to NCAA play. The Quakers are bound to be ready to run and gun in the hunt for the title, entering the weekend with the Ivy League’s most potent offense to the tune of 27 goals. The Red and Blue have scored two or more goals in eight of their 16 matches this season and are 6-2-0 in those matches. Eight different players have scored goals for the Quakers, including Duke Lacroix who is tied for the Ivy lead in goals with seven. Sam Hayward is part of a group tied for fifth in the Ivy League with five goals, while fellow rookie Alec Neumann has four.
Two of the last three meetings between Penn and Harvard have required extra time to determine a winner, Harvard taking a double-overtime win in 2010 before Penn returned the favor the following season. In the 73 all-time meetings between the two schools, Penn is slightly behind in the all-time series, 38-40-5. In the last ten meetings, Penn has won six times to four for the Crimson.
Much like Penn’s reversal of fortune from a year ago, Harvard is looking to rewrite its history with an Ivy title in 2013. Since claiming the Ivy championship in 2009, the Crimson have finished sixth, eighth and eighth the last three years. Over the past two Ivy campaigns, the Crimson went 0-12-2, with its five Ivy wins in 2013 surpassing the two total Ancient Eight wins the Crimson accumulated over the last three seasons.
After starting the season 1-6-2 in non-conference play, Harvard has put together a 6-1-0 record since Oct. 12. Five out of the six Ivy games Harvard has played in has seen a final score of 2-1, four going in favor of the Crimson. Last weekend, two goals 1:47 apart in the second half were enough for Harvard to take down Columbia, 2-0, in New York City. Unlike the Quakers who have four players with three or more goals, Harvard is reliant on its entire roster for scoring. 14 different players have scored at least one goal for the Crimson, led by Ashi Geberkidane and Kevin Harrington who each have three. 19 different Harvard players have at least one point this season, led by Ross Friedman who has 12 – including 10 assists which ranks him fifth in the country.
In goal, Evan Mendez has appeared in nine matches, allowing five goals over 652:10 of game play. He is 5-0-0 in Ivy action this season.