HARVARD -- Harvard faced its toughest test of the young French River summer season when it battled Bancroft Wednesday afternoon at Harvard Park.
Senior forward Andrew Cullinan provided the decisive strike late in the final half to propel the Trojans past Bancroft 2-1. Harvard pelted Bancroft goalie Dylan McDonough throughout the match, but failed to break through until midway through the second half.
"If anything, I was happy that we were challenged more," said Harvard coach Nathaniel Adelson. "It brought out a different side in us. The last couple games have been easy games where we can just get away with anything, whereas they were making us work for our goals. They weren't giving us easy stuff."
Harvard dictated the offensive tempo early and often, putting McDonough under pressure from the onset of the first half. A deep bench allowed Harvard to keep up its high-speed offensive attack, where they push the ball down the wings.
Harvard had a couple of quality chances go by the wayside late in the first half. Sophomore forward Charlie Duncan let a shot fly with wicked pace in the 20th minute, but McDonough climbed the ladder and punched the ball over the crossbar.
Bancroft kept the Trojans' defense on their toes, but the backline anchored by rising sophomore Roman Vellante rose to the challenge. Harvard senior goalie Ryan Kennedy kept the Trojans' defense focused, but that focus would soon deteriorate.
A broken play late in the first half allowed Bancroft to take the 1-nil advantage. Kennedy booted the ball out of the offensive zone, but confusion at the midfield gave Bancroft's Nahun Ha a can't-miss opportunity at the cage. Ha dribbled the ball out to the wide side of the pitch and chipped it inside the far post to put the Bulldogs up 1-0.
"We made a mistake on the goal we gave up," said Adelson. "That was clearly a miscommunication back there. They (Bancroft) pretty much converted on 50 percent of the mistakes we made back there. For the most part -- the offense they got was off of our clear mistakes."
Harvard netted the equalizer five minutes before the conclusion of the first half. Ezra Kraus dribbled the ball down the near wing and crossed the ball to Ben L'Ecuyer who was camped out at the mouth of goal. L'Ecuyer settled the ball and buried it in the low-left pocket to knot the game at 1-1.The Harvard defense buckled down and kept the Bancroft attack from placing any quality attempts on net. Lady Luck shined down on the Harvard pitch, as Ezra Kraus was the beneficiary of a foul just outside of the 18-yard box.
Kraus chipped the ball in towards the right side of goal, where it found Cullinan. Cullinan wound up and blasted the ball past McDonough with five minutes remaining in the match to put the Trojans up for good.
"They weren't making mistakes," said Adelson on the Bulldogs' defense. "The goalie made some pretty decent saves, and I am glad we got a challenge. It hadn't happened in the past couple games. Against some of the others, we were able to walk in on goal.
"They didn't give us anything easy," he said. "They really made us work for whatever we got, and that's why we only scored twice."
Harvard out-shot Bancroft in the match 24-13, half of which were on goal. Kennedy finished the day with 11 saves, while his adversary McDonough, stonewalled six.