Men's Soccer Closes Out 2009 at Harvard

PHILADELPHIA - Last week's loss to Princeton has knocked the Penn men's soccer team out of the Ivy League championship race, but that doesn't mean the Quakers can't affect what happens in this final weekend of play.

For certain, all eyes will be fixed on Cambridge Saturday when the Quakers (6-7-3, 2-3-1 Ivy) face off against No. 11 Harvard (12-3-1, 4-1-1 Ivy) at 1 p.m. on the Crimson's Ohiri Field.

For the third time in its last five games, Penn faces a team ranked in that week's national coaches' poll. However, a little more is at stake than just a win - at least for Harvard. If the Crimson wins on Saturday, they will clinch the Ivy League title outright at 5-1-1 and also gain automatic entry into the 48-team NCAA College Cup field.

If Penn can get a draw or a win? Things get dicey for Harvard. A tie puts the Crimson at 4-1-2, with 14 points (three for a win, one for each tie), and leaves them hoping for a tie between Dartmouth and Brown on Sunday. If either the Big Green or Bears win that match, they get the Ivy title and NCAA bid; a tie keeps Harvard at the top of the table.

And a Penn win? Well...see below. You know that, with his team unable to defend its title from a year ago, head coach Rudy Fuller would like nothing better to see his young charges rise up and level the Quakers' overall and Ivy League records at .500 for the season.

Also in the Ivy League: Four teams are still alive for a piece of the title heading into this final weekend. The action starts Friday night, when Princeton (3-2-1) hosts Yale (2-4-0). If the Tigers win, they must hope that Penn knocks off Harvard Saturday afternoon and that Dartmouth (4-2-0) and Brown (4-2-0) tie Sunday in Providence. If that happens, there is a four-way tie for the championship. The only Ivy match without title implications this weekend takes place in Ithaca, where Columbia (2-4-0) meets Cornell (0-3-3).

The Series With Harvard: The Crimson lead the series, 38-36-5, one of just two Ivy League teams to hold an all-time winning record over Penn (Brown is the other). The home team has had the advantage for several years now in this matchup, including last year when Penn won in overtime, 1-0, to clinch the Ivy title and automatic NCAA bid. The last time these teams played in Cambridge, in 2007, Harvard won 2-1.

About Harvard: The Crimson (12-3-1) are looking to clinch the outright Ivy League title Saturday. They are led by Andre Akpan, whose 11 goals and 28 points are among the Ivy League leaders. Brian Rogers has six goals and five assists, while Desmond Mitchell has three goals. Harvard has outscored its opponents this season 28-13. In goal, Austin Harms has started 15 of 16 matches; he has a 0.85 goals-against average and 51 saves.

About Penn...

*Junior Jason Gorskie had Penn's only goal in its 3-1 loss to Princeton last weekend, it was his first goal this season and third of his career.

*Last week, Takakuwa received ESPN The Magazine/CoSIDA Academic All-District honors; he is now eligible for Academic All-America honors, which will be voted on and announced later this month.

*Junior Loukas Tasigianis scored Penn's goal in its 1-0 win over No. 20 Brown two weekends ago; it was his third goal this season and earned him Philadelphia Soccer Six Player of the Week honors.

*At the other end, freshman goalkeeper Garon Smith had six saves to preserve his second straight shutout; he was named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week.

*Sophomore Christian Barreiro and Takakuwa have six goals apiece to lead the Quakers; that is tied for eighth among Ivy League players.

*Barreiro is also among the Ivy League leaders with 0-94 points per contest.

*Junior Tobi Olopade is eighth among Ivy League players in assists per game (0.36) and 10th in points per game (0.91)

*Smith has started five of Penn's six Ivy League matches this season, and has his goals-against average to 1.40 with consecutive clean sheets against Yale and Brown.

Quoting Head Coach Rudy Fuller

"We said to the guys early in the week that we go into every game looking to win, and this week is no different. We have a young team and almost everyone is back next year, so even though we have been knocked out of the Ivy race and NCAA stuff we need to use this opportunity to get better and give us something to build on for the future."

"Winning at Brown two weeks ago was a great experience for this team and especially the younger guys. It certainly helps our confidence heading into Harvard Saturday."

"I would imagine we will get Harvard's best on Saturday, and we expect nothing less from them. I think it will be a great game. We are looking forward to the challenge."