Coming off a six-day break from soccer, the Harvard men’s foot club handed regional rival University of New Hampshire (UNH) a 3-1 defeat this past Tuesday afternoon (Sept. 23) to wreck the Wildcats’ unbeaten run. With the win, the Crimson squad picks up its third victory out of five outings in the early going of this 2008 season, while UNH falls to 5-1-2.

Looking loose and capitalizing on its scoring opportunities, the Crimson — who dropped a disappointing 1-0 decision to Rhode Island in overtime nearly a week ago — were motivated by an underdog mindset, according to first-year Harvard head coach Jamie Clark. “It’s funny, this is the first game that we came in this whole season saying: ‘We’re a little bit of the underdog and can we take an underdog mentality?’” Clark explained. “Because if we’re going to go far in the tournament and get there and do things we’re going to have to be the underdog. To be honest, in the Northeast a lot of times we’re the favorite,” Clark said, adding, “We almost had to burst their bubble of confidence, which we did early, and then sort of manufactured the win from there.”

And burst they did, setting the tone with a pair of first-half tallies against a highly capable UNH squad. A little over eight minutes into the opening stanza, preseason All-American Andre Akpan ’10 broke his season-long scoring drought after firing a shot from the box past Wildcat goalkeeper Colin O’Donnell. The single-goal advantage was short-lived, however, as UNH knotted things up at 1-1 less than six minutes later when Wildcat Chris Banks outwitted junior net minder Joseph Alexander on a penalty kick. After nearly 15 minutes of taut, scoreless play, Akpan notched his second goal of the afternoon when he booted the ball into the cage from inside the penalty arc to help his team take a 2-1 edge.

In the second stanza, Alexander and company weathered a flurry of activity by UNH before receiving some relief in the form of an insurance goal courtesy of teammate Michael Fucito. The prolific senior co-captain tallied the left-footed score in the 72nd minute of play when he lofted a pretty, hanging shot high into the back of the Wildcat netting to set up the eventual 3-1 final. With his goal and first-half assist, the midfielder picked up his fifth tally of the young season. He currently leads his team with 11 points.

All told, the Wildcats outshot the hosts 14-7 and finished with six of the game’s seven attempted corner kicks — a testament to Harvard’s resourceful play on the afternoon. Next up, the Crimson take on the University of Maine in Orono on Sunday (Sept. 28) for a noon contest.

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